Elk NetworkRMEF, Partners to Enhance Idaho Elk Habitat

General | April 26, 2024

Below is a news release from the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests.

The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have begun prescribed burns on the North Fork Clearwater Ranger District to improve elk habitat. The project had to be carefully timed to find a period of time when the moisture level of fuels was low enough and temperatures were high enough to enable burning.

The project will treat 2,185 acres of mature ponderosa pine in 38 stands through a mixture of non-commercial thinning and prescribed burning. This project will ensure the long-term persistence of ponderosa pines by reducing the risk of loss due to wildfire by reducing fuels. It will also reduce overmature brush and create desired vegetation conditions, providing more palatable, available, and nutritious forage for elk in the Lolo Zone. Lolo elk populations began declining in the 1990s, partially due to maturing forest habitats and declining forage availability. The project will increase early seral habitat on the landscape and provide important nutrition for elk, moose and deer.

Tara Ball, the Regional Wildlife Biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) explained: “IDFG is really excited to see this work get done. This mixture of treatments will create a mosaic of new and old vegetation, providing diverse habitat within the forested system that is important to many wildlife species. RMEF has been a big proponent of doing good things for elk across Idaho and is no stranger to the Clearwater Basin. It truly takes an integrated effort by all.”

This is just one of the many projects the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests and Idaho Fish and Game are currently working on together this year and demonstrates the continued commitment of both parties to healthy and resilient landscapes. The North Fork Ponderosa Pine Restoration Project will begin as early as Monday, April 22, 2024. Approximately 775 acres of ponderosa pine ground will be burned utilizing aerial ignitions. This burning will take place along National Forest Service Roads #247 and NFSR #250, between Washington Creek Campground and Cedar Campground. Impacts to the roads, including smoke, trees, and rocks, are expected. The public should be advised that there will be some fire traffic along NFSR #247 and #250 during operations.

(Photo credit: Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests)