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Roading plans threaten Kelly Creek cutts, angler says

A cutthroat trout from Kelly Creek in the Clearwater National Forest of Idaho. (Rich Landers)
A cutthroat trout from Kelly Creek in the Clearwater National Forest of Idaho. (Rich Landers)

FISHERIES -- A man with his eyes on proposed development in the Clearwater National Forest issued an alert this week in the Letters to the Editor section of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.   Read on if you're a fan of the westslope cutthroat trout that lure fly fishers to Kelly Creek.

The westslope cutthroat trout is sought after by many anglers throughout the state, including in Kelly Creek and the North Fork Clearwater River in the Clearwater National Forest (CNF). The westslope's stronghold in these areas, however, is threatened through proposed road development of the adjoining 260,000-acre Bighorn-Weitas Roadless Area (BWRA). Road development in the BWRA has a high potential to negatively affect the hydrologic function of some of the North Fork's most important cutthroat spawning and rearing tributaries. The most effective way of preserving our blue ribbon fisheries in the Clearwater is through wilderness designation of the BWRA.

In 1996, I studied impacts of flooding and landslide events on aquatic habitats throughout the CNF. My study included areas both within and outside of the BWRA.

I found significant differences between aquatic habitats impacted by road-derived sediment versus those that had received inputs through natural mass-wasting processes. Road-related impacts typically resulted in a homogenization of downstream habitats, while natural mass-wasting processes more often resulted in increases of habitat complexity.

The importance of maintaining roadless landscapes, especially in geologically unstable areas that support blue ribbon fisheries, cannot be overstated. Designate the BWRA as wilderness to help protect Idaho's state fish.

Craig D. Rabe, McCall, Idaho




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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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