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Sports >  Outdoors

Upgrade smooths way to remote Joseph Plains habitat

By Eric Barker The Lewiston Tribune

Access to a little-known and remote wildlife area in Idaho was recently upgraded via a partnership between the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The 1,300-acre Joseph Plains Wildlife Habitat Area sits high above the Salmon River west of White Bird. Gregory, Sotin and Howard creeks plunge from the upland benches to the river.

“It has winter range for deer and elk but also ties into Idaho Department of Lands, Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service property,” said Andrew Mackey, a biologist and habitat manager for Fish and Game at Lewiston. “It’s steeper than a cow’s face. It’s canyon country, has timbered stringers in there.

“It’s pretty good, intact habitat. It does face east and stays relatively snow free and provides great thermal cover and open range for deer, elk, bear and turkey.”

The area was donated to the elk foundation and purchased by the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation around 2007. It is managed by Fish and Game, and the elk foundation continues to hold a conservation easement there.

Until recently, the area had limited access, just a rough road that terminated abruptly at a gate. “Up until this time last year, it was just a gate with no turnaround,” Mackey said. “We moved the gate, created a turnaround, parking area and signage.”

The partners hope the improvements will attract more people to explore the area that has the typical stunning views of the lower Salmon River country.

“As snow in the high country melts, hunters and others will now find it much easier to access this scenic landscape that’s teeming with wildlife,” said Kyle Weaver, president and CEO of the elk foundation.

Even with the improvements, it’s a place that requires concerted effort to explore.

“You definitely need hiking boots and strong legs to take full advantage of it, but I challenge anyone to come here,” said Brandi Felts, regional habitat biologist for the department at Lewiston.

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