On a scenic bend in Idaho’s legendary Salmon River, Western Rivers Conservancy protected a dramatic viewshed and ensured the widely-loved Pine Bar Recreation Site remains forever accessible. The project, our first on the Salmon River, began in 2012 when we acquired 1,284 acres on a spectacular bend above the river. We purchased the land with the goal of conserving both the viewshed and the high-gradient creeks that tumble down the mountainside to nourish the river. The streams that flow through the property directly influence habitat quality for five threatened or endangered fish species, including sockeye, spring/summer Chinook, fall Chinook, steelhead and migratory bull trout. In summer 2014, we conveyed this strategically located property to the BLM, which will now steward the lands for the sake of the Salmon River’s fish and wildlife and to ensure access to Pine Bar remains unfettered and compatible with conservation.
Our efforts at Pine Bar are integral to our larger vision to ensure the Salmon River and its unique riverland habitat stay healthy and accessible to all. The Salmon River is the longest, wildest and cleanest major river in the Rockies, flowing 425 miles from its headwaters in the Sawtooth Mountains to its confluence with the Snake River in Hells Canyon. Its salmon and steelhead, which migrate farther than any anadromous fish in the West, navigate over 900 miles on their epic journey from the Pacific Ocean.
The project conserves prime winter range for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer and habitat for black bear and mountain lion. The steep grasslands are believed to shelter two ESA-listed plants—Spalding’s catchfly and MacFarlane’s four o’clock—and to support sensitive species like peregrine and prairie falcon, mountain quail and western toad.
Besides providing outstanding fish and wildlife habitat, the Salmon River is habitat for outdoor enthusiasts. As one of Idaho’s premier outdoor recreation destinations, the river draws some 600,000 annual visitors, including anglers, hunters, whitewater rafters, campers, hikers, equestrians and outfitters. The Pine Bar Recreation Site is heavily used for boating access, day-use and camping for more than nine months of the year. Because access to the Pine Bar site is through the Heitstuman property, our efforts effectively ensure Pine Bar remains open to the public forever.