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Nez Perce deputies patrol backcountry

Brad W. Gary Lewiston Morning Tribune

It can take a while to get to the wilds of Nez Perce County in an emergency.

But that commute time has dwindled for two sheriff’s deputies who recently began dedicated patrols of the county’s backcountry.

“People are staying closer to home. That’s only a 45-minute, hour drive to be from Lewiston up in the sticks,” said sheriff’s Lt. Bill Madison. “We’re concerned about the safety of the public; their safety is paramount to us.”

Madison said the presence of deputies should encourage safe driving on winding roads in the Craig Mountain area. There have also been occasional spates of vandalism, and cabin burglaries in rural parts of the county. Madison said he hopes deputies will be able to watch for those crimes. As people begin to see the deputies up there, Madison said residents and frequent visitors will notify them if something is out of place.

“Then to have, obviously, a quick response time frame if something does happen on the mountain,” Madison said.

The goal is to foster safety in the backcountry, said Senior Deputy Levi Frary, and to ensure people abide by the rules.

Frary and Senior Deputy Jerry Florence spend their summers as marine deputies, patrolling the county’s rivers. Now that more people are in the mountains and backcountry, the two utilize pickup trucks and a pair of six-wheel all-terrain-vehicles for their work. The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation recently donated a snowmobile to the county for use if needed.

“This time of year there’s not a lot of stuff going on the water,” Frary said. “That’s why this part of the year our focus is on the mountain.”

They will have a presence at snowmobile fun runs on the mountain, and will work with Idaho Department of Fish and Game officers who also patrol the area. Underage alcohol consumption has been a problem in the Waha area in the past, something Frary said patrols might put a curb on.

Craig Mountain is where most incidents tend to occur, but Madison said the backcountry behind Peck or Southwick, and along the Clearwater River corridor, are also subject to patrols.

Sheriff’s officials believe keeping tabs on recreationists is a “very important” part of their patrols, Madison said.

“Because people go out and they’re focused on having fun and the potential of harm or danger isn’t always seen,” Madison said. “I feel good about having our guys out there.”

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