Watershed restoration efforts in the South Fork Salmon River (SFSR) and Big Creek (BC) drainages originated in 2008 with the goal of restoring fish passage and improving water quality at the “Glory Hole” site below the Stibnite Mine. Watershed restoration activities in the Stibnite area were made infeasible due to skyrocketing gold prices and new exploration taking place at this mine. Restoration work was re-focused to improve fish passage and habitat throughout the entire South Fork Salmon River and Upper Big Creek Watersheds. For the past three years, the Nez Perce Tribe (NPT) has been developing multi-agency partnerships to implement restoration projects throughout the SFSR and BC watersheds. These projects include; comprehensive road inventories to prioritize future road decommissioning, road-to- trail conversions, the design of the aquatic organism passage (AOP) projects on Salt, Profile, and Parks Creek, and the beginning of a cooperative partnership between the Payette National Forest (PNF) and the NPT. Beginning in 2008, approximately 98 miles of road were inventoried by the NPT using a handheld GPS/PC. This new method of electronic data collection provided the PNF and NPT with the information necessary to effectively plan road restoration efforts for 2009 and 2010. In 2009, culverts causing fish passage barriers were replaced with pre-cast concrete bridges returning 15.64 miles of fish habitat in Parks, Salt and Profile Creeks; a full recontour of 22 miles of decommissioned roads within the Secesh River subwatershed was completed (within the Cow, Calf, Marvrick, Zena subwatershed complex); 3o miles of road inventories were completed; and fish barrier data collection continued. Restoration projects for the entire South Fork Salmon Watershed were identified and prioritized in partnership with both the Payette and Boise National Forests. Additionally in FY09, the Watershed Division was awarded a $1,000,000 grant from the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF) through the Idaho Office of Species Conservation (OSC) funding a conservation easement on the Wapiti Meadow Ranch along Johnson Creek. This easement was a partnership effort between the Nez Perce Tribe, the Wapiti Meadow Owner, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to implement restoration projects designed to protect and improve fish habitat along Johnson Creek and its tributaries.
During 2010, the project area was expanded to include the South Fork Salmon River and Big Creek Watersheds. These watersheds were combined into one project area for two reasons; first, both the Lower SFSR and the BC watersheds are within the Payette National Forest and coordination of restoration actions includes the same personnel from both the NPT and PNF. Second, both watersheds border each other and have similar species of concern, physical conditions, limiting factors and restoration actions. Restoration activities were completed on both the Boise and Payette National Forests. Projects included restoration planning for the Wapiti Meadow Ranch Conservation Easement; the replacement of 5 of the 6 planned fish passage barrier culverts with AOP’s to return 8 miles of cold water fish habitat along Curtis and Trail Creeks within the BNF; full recontour of 17 miles of roads within the SFSR watershed on the PNF; completion of 54 miles of road inventories in the SFSR and BC watersheds; continuation of fish barrier data collection through partnerships with the Payette and Boise National Forests, identification of future high priority restoration projects for 2011 and 2012; and initiation of designs for 4 fish passage barrier replacements in the Upper Secesh watershed and Big Creek Bridge.