Idaho Forest Group always aims to have a positive impact in the communities in which we operate from sponsoring youth sports teams, to volunteering at educational events, to donating to local charities; we invest in our homes. One of these investments is just starting to take shape, will live on in perpetuity for everyone.
In 2014, Idaho Forest Group (IFG) purchased nearly 2,000 acres of the Prichard Creek stream and bordering forestland from a single private landowner. Prichard Creek flows down from the Montana border passing the historic town of Murray and draining into the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River. Its entire length once served as cold water refuge from the summer heat, for bull trout and cutthroat trout.
Around the turn of the 20th century, the creek was mined for gold using an in-stream floating dredge that removed thousands of tons of sediment from the creek bed and leaving large piles of rocks bordering it. These operations have changed the shape of the creek leaving decreased riparian vegetation, eroding banks, sediment loading into the water, decreased sinuosity, and a three-mile stretch that flows subsurface during the summer months. Prichard’s waters are very cold and have relatively high water quality.
Almost all of the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River has been impacted by mining and development. Prichard Creek stands out as “low hanging fruit” in the basin for potential restoration because the water quality is decent, the waters are cold, and it is mostly surrounded by public lands. IFG saw an opportunity in Prichard Creek to live out our company values: stewardship of our forests; sustainable practices in all that we do; and supporting the rural communities in which we work and live. And because of this opportunity, IFG has embarked upon a long-term project to restore the potential vitality of the creek while also securing the property as a public resource forever through a conservation easement. The project is beginning to take shape through the efforts of local, state and federal entities, as well as, environmental, economic, and recreational groups working in partnership with IFG.
The project will:
- Improve and increase access to important fish habitat for Westslope Cutthroat Trout and other fish species.
- Secure protection of water resources for 13 miles of Prichard Creek, over 3 miles of perennial side streams, 20+ stream confluences, and various small wetlands.
- Provide public access on 1,964 acres for recreational daytime access.
- Provide certainty to the forest products industry that these working forests, will remain in production, — growing timber and fiber in perpetuity.
- Prevent the conversion from productive forestlands to rural homesites and/or unstructured recreational development.
- Prevent any further mining on this property.
- Create an educational venue for local schools and the public interested in the robust history of this drainage.
This is a long-term project that will likely involve numerous grant application processes to secure restoration funds over the course of many years. In this first year of the project we are applying to the Forest Legacy Conservation Easement (CE) Program. If we are successful the CE rights will be held by the State of Idaho and IFG will continue to own the land. We are also applying to the Restoration Partnership (a board of four trustees who manage mitigation funds from past mining impacts in the CDA Basin) for partial payment of the CE and for initial restoration funds. After the CE is in place we will then work on other avenues for securing dollars to continue restoration work.
IFG employees have been making rounds to educate potential stakeholders and partners about the project. In early June IFG held a public meeting in the town of Murray which borders the project. While the meeting started out with some apprehension, stemming from rumors circling the area, excitement from the more than 50 community members in attendance was palpable.