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Salmon Habitat Recovery

The strategy developed for salmon habitat recovery in the Pacific Northwest involves four key elements: enhance salmon survival in rivers, improve harvest management, improve hatcheries and production practices, and protect and restore habitat.

The Nez Perce Soil and Water Conservation District (District), along with its conservation partners, assists land users implement habitat protection and recovery activities in Idaho’s Clearwater River Basin.

Salmon habitat includes the streams where spawners lay their eggs, where eggs hatch, and where young fish spend the first year or two of their lives.

Quality habitat provides fish with cool, clean water; streambanks well shaded by vegetation; abundant, clean, spawning gravel; and rocks and woody debris in streams to create pools for resting and feeding.

The listing of three salmon species as endangered in Idaho is an indicator, or piece of evidence, that some watershed ecosystems are out of balance. Nearly every element is a watershed ecosystem plays a part in the endurance of that system. Knock one element out of its place, like fish habitat, and there is a biological shuffle among all the other elements.

Through decades of experience working with landowners and users who care for the natural resources, we have found that the best way to plan and implement action plans is through a planning process called coordinated resource management. This process operates on a local level and includes landowners, users, and managers working together as a team to formulate and implement plans for the management of all major resources and ownerships within a specific area.

As part of the coordinated resource management planning process, watershed planning and resource assessments were completed in the Lapwai and Big Canyon Creek watersheds. Watersheds currently undergoing the planning process include Bedrock, Pine, Hatwai, Cottonwood, Lindsay, and Catholic Creeks.

Watershed plans are developed using a team of specialists with varied backgrounds. The teams assess the status of fisheries resources by conducting site investigations, develop alternatives and plans to protect, enhance, or restore fisheries habitat, and work with local landowners and users in planning and implementing practices aimed at riparian restoration enhancement, wetland development, grazing management, erosion control, and nutrient management.

What is a watershed?

No matter where you live, you live in watershed. Each watershed has a name, but it may not be as familiar to you as the name of the city, town, or street where you live.

A watershed is an area of land which drains to a common point. Watersheds can range in size from a few acres to thousands of square miles.

From the highest point in a watershed, water from rain or melting snow flows down the slopes and across the land until it comes together in a stream, river, wetland, lake, or into groundwater.

Idaho is divided into six major drainage basins. The Clearwater River basin, for example, is composed of hundreds of smaller watersheds which in turn include even more small watersheds.

Many activities occur within a watershed such as farming, livestock grazing, timber harvesting, and mining. As rain water or snowmelt flows across the land, it can pick up loose soil, manure, nutrients, pesticides, and other pollutants. All these substances can take a toll on the quality of water that comes out of your tap and on the health of our streams, rivers, and lakes.

The health and future of people and our communities depends on healthy watersheds and the natural resources they provide.

From: Salmon Habitat Recovery Brochure, January 1995; USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service

The Clearwater River Basin consists of six million acres in northcentral Idaho. The project are includes the counties of Clearwater, Idaho, Latah, Lewis and Nez Perce.

Dominant land uses include cropland, range and pastureland, forestland, mining and urban development.

The Clearwater River is a tributary to the Snake and Columbia River systems. It is an important anadromous fishery producing spring, summer, and fall Chinook Salmon and steelhead. It also provides recreational, industrial, agricultural and domestic water supplies for local communities.

Conservation measures landowners and land users can use to decrease instream water temperatures, reduce sediment and nutrient loads, and improve instream fisheries habitat include:

Animal waste systems, buffer strips, erosion control systems, grassed waterways, livestock water developments, sediment basins, streambank stabilization systems, tree plantings, and irrigation system improvements.

The District has cost-share available for implementing projects in the Tammany, Lapwai, Big Canyon, and forestlands of Nez Perce County. For additional information on these programs please contact our office.

If you are a land owner or land user in the Cottonwood, Catholic, Jacks, Bedrock, Lindsay, Hatwai, Pine, or Potlatch watersheds, and have project ideas, please contact our staff to identify your specific needs. These watersheds are currently in the planning phase (the first step in order to obtain cost-share). For additional information, please go to our projects page.

Information in this article was adapted from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service publication titled Salmon Habitat Recovery, January 1995.


Nez Perce Soil and Water Conservation District
27880 Chambers Road
Culdesac, ID 83524

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 131
Culdesac, ID 83524

Contact Us

Phone:  208-843-2931

Fax:  208-843-2234


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