December 2022 Conservation Corner

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By Ken Moore, Chairman

Picture the ultimate wild river; roaring whitewater, horizons notched by snow-capped peaks, corridors of evergreen forests, bear and elk sporadically roaming the riverbank, trout surfacing on the water, and not another human in sight. This is Idaho’s Wild and Scenic Selway River.

The 98-mile-long Selway is known as one of America’s most spectacular and thoroughly protected, free-flowing rivers. From its source in the Bitterroot Mountains, the Selway flows west to the Lochsa River and Middle Fork Clearwater. It is one of eight rivers designated in the original Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. Much of the river lies within the Selway- Bitterroot Wilderness, one of the initial wilderness areas protected under the 1964 Wilderness Act.

Thanks to this long history of protection and the river’s remarkably untouched quality (only one raft trip is permitted per day). The Selway is one of few rivers that provide vast, unbroken habitat for fish and wildlife, including west slope cutthroat trout, steelhead, Chinook salmon, Canada lynx, Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. The Selway is also revered by veteran river-runners, as it guarantees boaters a pristine wilderness experience.

Before the Selway’s confluence with the Lochsa, it leaves the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and continues through the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. A few private inholdings along the otherwise wilderness-blanketed river remain unprotected along this stretch.

Last year, Western Rivers Conservancy (WRC) negotiated a deal to purchase one of the most important of these inholdings, the 152-acre Selway River Ranch. The ranch is the finest example of a flat, pristine meadow on the lower Selway. It spans nearly a mile of the western river bank and includes a half mile of Elk City Creek, a minor Selway tributary.

This past April, the WRC purchased the ranch, locking in a commitment to this unique property. The WRC will now hold it while they pursue funding from the Land Water Conservation Fund to convey the ranch to the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forrest. The aim is to keep the property intact and undeveloped, to protect its fish and wildlife habitat, and to help maintain the exquisite, untamed character of Idaho’s Wild and Scenic Selway River forever.

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