Boise National Forest
|Boise National Forest|
IUCN category VI (protected area with sustainable use of natural resources)
Trinity Mountains in Boise National Forest
|Location||Ada, Boise, Elmore, Gem, Valley, and Washington counties, Idaho, United States|
|Nearest city||Boise, ID|
|Area||2,203,703 acres (8,918.07 km2):I-5 (administered);
2,648,290 acres (10,717.2 km2) (proclaimed)
|Established||July 1, 1908|
|Governing body||U.S. Forest Service|
Boise National Forest is a federally protected area that covers 2,203,703 acres (891,807 ha) of the U.S. state of Idaho as part of the national forest system. Created on July 1, 1908 from part of Sawtooth National Forest, it is managed by the U.S. Forest Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture as four units: the Cascade, Emmett, Lowman, and Mountain Home ranger districts.
Most of Boise National Forest is underlain by the Idaho Batholith, and both include parts of the Boise, Salmon River, and West mountain ranges, with the forest reaching a maximum elevation of 9,730 feet (2,970 m) on Steel Mountain. Common land cover types include sagebrush steppe and spruce-fir forests, in addition to 9,600 miles (15,400 km) of streams and rivers and 15,400 acres (6,200 ha) of lakes and reservoirs. Boise National Forest contains 75 percent of the known populations of Sacajawea's bitterroot.
The Shoshone people occupied what is now Boise National Forest before European descendants arrived in the early 1800s. Many of the early settlers were trappers and prospectors before gold was discovered in 1862. After the 1860s Boise Basin gold rush ended, gold mining, along with tungsten, silver, and antimony mining, among other minerals, continued throughout the forest through the mid-twentieth century. Recreation opportunities and facilities in Boise National Forest include over 70 campgrounds, whitewater and flatwater boating, cabin rentals, and 1,300 miles (2,100 km) of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and motorized off-road vehicle use.
Boise National Forest was created on July 1, 1908 from part of Sawtooth National Forest and originally covered 1,147,360 acres (464,320 ha). The President was given the authority to establish forest reserves in the U.S. Department of the Interior by the Forest Reserve Act of 1891. With the passage of the Transfer Act of 1905, forest reserves became part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the newly created U.S. Forest Service. Present-day Boise National Forest was protected as part of Sawtooth Forest Reserve upon the reserve’s creation on May 29, 1905 and expansion on November 6, 1906 in proclamations issued by President Theodore Roosevelt. After forest reserves were renamed national forests in 1908, Boise National Forest was split from Sawtooth National Forest into an independent national forest. On April 1, 1944 the entirety of what was then Payette National Forest was transferred to Boise National Forest, and simultaneously Weiser and Idaho national forests were combined to reestablish the present-day Payette National Forest, which is to the north of Boise National Forest. The original Payette National Forest had been established on June 3, 1905 as Payette Forest Reserve. In 1933 the Boise Basin Experimental Forest was established on 8,740 acres (3,540 ha) of the forest near Idaho City to study the management of ponderosa pine. The Lucky Peak Nursery was established in 1959 to produce trees for planting on burned or logged lands on the national forests of the Intermountain region.
Boise National Forest is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, an agency within the Department of Agriculture as five units called ranger districts. The ranger districts are Cascade (400,000 acres or 1,600 square kilometers), Emmett (350,000 acres or 1,400 square kilometers), Idaho City (400,000 acres), Lowman (400,000 acres), and Mountain Home (650,000 acres or 2,600 square kilometers), and each has an office in their respective cities and a district ranger who manages the ranger district. Forest headquarters are located in the city of Boise, and as of 2015 the forest supervisor, or the top forest official, is Cecilia Seesholtz, who has been in that position since 2008. There have been 2,648,290 acres (10,717.2 km2) of Idaho proclaimed to be part of Boise National Forest, however the forest manages only about 2,203,703 acres (891,807 ha).:I-5 The proclaimed boundary is set and can only be changed by Congress, but the administered boundary can be shifted among adjacent national forests without congressional approval. For management (and from the visitor’s perspective) the forest’s boundaries are its administered area.:I-5
Sawtooth National Forest manages 150,071 acres (607.32 km2) of the proclaimed area of Boise National Forest as part of the Sawtooth Wilderness in Sawtooth National Recreation Area. There are 332,971 acres (1,347.49 km2) of the proclaimed area of Boise National Forest in the Frank Church—River of No Return Wilderness, which is largely administered by Salmon-Challis National Forest. The Indian, Pistol, and Elkhorn creek drainages of the Frank Church Wilderness are designated as part of Boise National Forest but are administered by Salmon-Challis National Forest. One section of Boise National Forest in the Frank Church Wilderness is administered jointly by Boise and Salmon-Challis national forests. The Stibnite region of the upper East Fork South Fork Salmon River drainage within Boise National Forest’s proclaimed area is administered by Payette National Forest. Boise National Forest manages a small section of Payette National Forest’s designated area east of Council and a larger area of Sawtooth National Forest between Mountain Home and Fairfield.:I-6
Boise National Forest is within the Idaho Batholith ecoregion, which is a level III ecoregion in the larger level I Northwestern Forested Mountains ecoregion. In addition to species listed or proposed for listing as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, the Forest Service maintains an independent listing of sensitive species for which it is directed to "develop and implement management practices to ensure that species do not become threatened or endangered because of Forest Service actions." As of February 2013 there were 27 species in Boise National Forest listed as sensitive species: six mammals, one amphibian, one fish, thirteen birds, and six plants.
An estimated 76 percent of Boise National Forest is forest, which according to the Forest Service is considered to be land that is capable of supporting trees on at least 50 percent of its area. The forests are primarily coniferous evergreen forests dominated by ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, and Douglas fir at lower elevations and Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, and whitebark pine at higher elevations. Grand fir and western larch can be found in the northern part of the forest where there are moister conditions. Quaking aspen, a deciduous tree, can be found in stands among conifers throughout the forest at elevations above 5,000 feet (1,500 m). Non-forested areas occupy 23 percent of the forest, primarily on south-facing slopes, lower elevations in the forest’s southern latitudes, or high-elevation areas. These non-forested areas are those dominated by grasses, forbs, or shrubs.:I-11
The warmest, driest forested areas occur at elevations from 3,000 feet (910 m) to 6,500 feet (2,000 m) and on south-facing slopes that are steep and dry. These forests are dominated by ponderosa pine, which persists due to the presence of frequent non-lethal fires. Douglas fir occasionally occur in these forests alongside ponderosa pine, particularly at higher elevations. The understory consists of bluebunch wheatgrass, Idaho fescue, mountain snowberry, and bitterbrush in drier areas and elk sedge, pinegrass, white spirea, mallow ninebark, and common snowberry at higher elevations.:A-21
In cool, moist areas ranging from 4,800 feet (1,500 m) to 6,800 feet (2,100 m), Douglas fir dominates. Lodgepole pine and quaking aspen may be found alongside Douglas fir in cooler areas, particularly where frost pockets form. Understories in this forest type are dominated by mountain maple, mountain ash, and blue huckleberry in moister areas and white spirea, common snowberry, elk sedge, and pinegrass in drier areas.:A-22 Between elevations of 3,400 feet (1,000 m) and 6,500 feet (2,000 m) in the moist northern parts of the forest, grand fir dominates and western larch is found in early successional areas. Understories are also made of mountain maple, mountain ash, blue huckleberry, and mallow ninebark.:A-23 Subalpine fir dominates at elevations from 4,800 feet (1,500 m) to 7,500 feet (2,300 m) along with mountain maple, serviceberry, Scouler’s willow, Sitka alder, menziesia, Utah honeysuckle, and mountain ash.:A-24
Lodgepole pine can dominate in cold, dry areas at elevations from 5,200 feet (1,600 m) to 9,200 feet (2,800 m). Understory vegetation can be sparse but include grasses, forbs, and huckleberries and grouse whortleberry. Fires in lodgepole pine-dominated forests are typically lethal to trees and understories alike.:A-24 At the highest elevations, forests consist of subalpine fir alongside whitebark pine and Engelmann spruce. Grasses and forbs tolerant to freezing throughout the growing season occupy the understory.:A-24
In non-forested areas at lower elevations with little precipitation, sagebrush typically dominates. Species that commonly occur with sagebrush include Sandberg bluegrass, wild onion, milk vetches, bluebunch wheatgrass, bitterbrush, gray horsebrush, green rabbitbrush, and others.:A-26 In riparian areas below 5,500 feet (1,700 m), trees such as black cottonwood, narrowleaf cottonwood, thinleaf alder, water birch, and mountain maple can be found with shrubs such as chokeberry and willows. Treeless riparian areas are dominated by willows along with thinleaf alder, chokecherry, mountain maple, shrubby cinquefoil, fireweed, saxifrage, and grasses.:A-28
Sacajawea’s bitterroot is a plant species endemic to central Idaho, including parts of Boise National Forest, being found nowhere else in the world. Only about two dozen populations of the plant are known to exist, and three-quarters of the populations are in Boise National Forest. It is usually found at elevations ranging from 5,000 feet (1,500 m) to 9,500 feet (2,900 m) above sea level and produces white flowers shortly after snowmelt. The forest contains habitat capable of supporting Ute lady’s tresses and Idaho pepperweed, plants listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, but has no known populations of them.:I-11
There is habitat in Boise National Forest that supports nearly 300 terrestrial vertebrate species and 28 fish species.:II-24 The most common large animals are mule deer and elk, but other mammals present include moose, black bears, pronghorn, mountain lions, coyote, bobcat, yellow-bellied marmot, beaver, and gray wolves.:I-11
Gray wolves are top predators that were reintroduced amidst controversy to central Idaho in the mid-1990s to restore ecosystem stability. The wolves have since expanded their range and established packs in most of Boise National Forest. Wolves and mountain lions are the forest's top large mammal predators and have no predators of their own except humans.:12 Except for grizzly bears, most of the forest's native mammal species are present in the forest. Grizzly bears have become locally extinct, and plans for their reintroduction to central Idaho have been proposed since the 1990s but have not progressed.
Of the 28 fish species present in the forest, eleven are not native and have been introduced by humans.:I-11 Rainbow trout, chinook salmon, westslope cutthroat trout, bull trout, and mountain whitefish are all native to some of the forest's waterways, while brook trout are a common invasive species that compete with the forest's salmonids. The forest's management indicator species is bull trout because they are sensitive to habitat changes and depend on specific habitat conditions. Sockeye salmon are native to the Salmon River watershed in the northern part of the forest, but dam construction on the Columbia and Snake rivers has hampered the migration of this anadromous fish and caused its population to collapse. Warm Lake supports the forest's only native population of Kokanee salmon, the resident (non-migratory) form of sockeye salmon. However, due to introductions by humans, Anderson Ranch, Arrowrock, Lucky Peak, and Deadwood reservoirs now support populations of Kokanee salmon.
Over 270 bird species have been observed in central Idaho, including 36 accidental species, or those that are not normally found in the region but have been observed on at least one occasion. Golden eagles and greater sage-grouse can be found over sagebrush steppe, while bald eagles can be seen along rivers. The Forest Service has listed northern goshawks, flammulated owls, and white-headed woodpeckers as a sensitive species in the forest.
The few amphibians present in the forest include the Rocky Mountain tailed frog, long-toed salamander, and Columbia spotted frog, which has been listed as a sensitive species. Common snake species include bullsnakes, garter snakes, and rubber boas.
Boise National Forest's 2010 forest plan recognizes that fire and other disturbances play important roles in maintaining the character and function of ecosystems. However, previous management strategies (as recently as the 1990 forest plan) treated fire as an undesirable process, and the Organic Act of 1897 explicitly stated that forests were to be protected from destruction by fire.:II-11 When compared to historic conditions when fires naturally occurred on the landscape, the suppression of fires allowed dead trees to accumulate in excess of historic levels and land cover types to change, such as a shift to higher shrub and tree densities.:II-8 An estimated 14 percent of the land in Boise National Forest has been affected by fires since the early 1990s, and about ten percent of the land capable of timber production was burned so severely that land cover shifted from forest to grass and shrubland (as of 2010).:II-3 Between 2004 and 2013 an average of 74,325 acres (30,078 ha) were burned by fires per year with a maximum of 346,500 acres (140,200 ha) in 2007 and a minimum of 152 acres (62 ha) in 2008. From 2000 to 2010 six percent of plantations in the forest were burned by fires.:II-13 In 2012 there were 26 fires started by people and 109 started by lightning, which together burned a total of 152,000 acres (62,000 ha). The Trinity Ridge Fire alone burned 146,800 acres (59,400 ha) over two months, although it was not confined to Boise National Forest lands.
The revised 2010 forest plan recognized the need to develop plans to manage wildfires at the wildland–urban interface, use prescribed fire as a tool to manage ecosystem health, and meet air quality requirements set by the Clean Air Act.:II-15 The forest operates a fire management plan under federal fire policy that gives fire personnel direction for responding to unintended ignitions. Occasionally, area closures and restrictions on use, such as prohibition of campfires, are implemented to aid in wildfire prevention. Following severe fires, area closures may be implemented to protect the public from risks such as falling trees and landslides.:B-45 In 2014, Boise National Forest planned to conduct 7,919 acres (3,205 ha) of prescribed burns with an additional 155 acres (63 ha) treated mechanically to reduce fuel levels, compared to 10,597 acres (4,288 ha) of prescribed burns and 2,329 acres (943 ha) of mechanical treatment in 2013. The forest seasonally maintains staff at seven fire lookout towers, while six others remain unstaffed. Deadwood Lookout is now maintained as a cabin that can be rented by the public.
Geography and geology
Elevations in the forest range from 2,800 feet (850 m) in the North Fork Payette River Canyon to 9,730 feet (2,970 m) at the top of Steel Mountain, an elevation gain of 6,930 feet (2,110 m). Mountain ranges in the forest include the Boise, Salmon River, and West mountain ranges, all of which are part of the Rocky Mountains. Much of the forest is underlain by the Idaho Batholith, and the forest is dominated by granitic rock, but intrusions of basalt can be found to the west and other volcanic rocks to the south.:I-10
Parts of the forest north of the South Fork Payette River and east of the North Fork Payette River are part of the Salmon River Mountains, which extend even further north and east outside the forest's boundaries. The South Fork Salmon River Range and the North Fork Range are subranges of the Salmon River Mountains within Boise National Forest. The Boise Mountains cover much of the southern portion of the forest and contain the forest's highest point, Steel Mountain, but the range's highest point, Two Point Mountain, lies outside of the forest's boundary. The southeastern part of the Boise Mountains are referred to as the Trinity Mountains, which reach their highest point at 9,451 feet (2,881 m) on Trinity Mountain. The West Mountains encompass the westernmost portion of the forest south and west of Lake Cascade. The highest point in the West Mountains is Snowbank Mountain with a summit elevation of 8,320 feet (2,540 m). The Danskin Mountains are a smaller northwest to southeast running range on the forest's southern border.
There are an estimated 9,600 miles (15,400 km) of perennial and intermittent streams and 15,400 acres (6,200 ha) of lakes and reservoirs in the forest. The forest borders parts of seven reservoirs, however the Forest Service does not own or manage any of the dams. Rather, it provides access to and recreation opportunities at the reservoirs. The largest natural lake in the forest is Warm Lake, and there several other smaller natural lakes, particularly in the Trinity and West mountains. Most of these natural lakes are tarns created by alpine glaciers during the Pleistocene. Annual water yield on the forest is estimated at 4,100,000 acre feet (5.1×109 m3).:I-10 The southern portion of the forest is drained by the Boise River, the central and western portions by the Payette River, northeastern portion by the Salmon River, and far western portions of the Emmett Ranger District by the Weiser River. All four rivers are tributaries of the Snake River, which itself is a tributary of the Columbia River, which flows into the Pacific Ocean.
|Anderson Ranch Dam||South Fork Boise River||Earthfill||456||139||Anderson Ranch Reservoir||503,500||0.6211||40||U.S. Bureau of Reclamation||1950|
|Arrowrock Dam||Boise River||Concrete arch||350||110||Arrowrock Reservoir||300,850||0.37109||0||U.S. Bureau of Reclamation||1915|
|Cascade Dam||North Fork Payette River||Earthfill||107||33||Lake Cascade||693,100||0.8549||12.4||U.S. Bureau of Reclamation||1948|
|Deadwood Dam||Deadwood River||Concrete arch||165||50||Deadwood Reservoir||154,000||0.190||0||U.S. Bureau of Reclamation||1931|
|Little Camas Dam||Little Camas Creek||Earthfill||44||13||Little Camas Reservoir||18,400||0.0227||0||Mountain Home Irrigation District||1912|
|Lucky Peak Dam||Boise River||Earthfill||340||100||Lucky Peak Lake||307,000||0.379||101||U.S. Army Corps of Engineers||1955|
|Sage Hen Dam||Sage Hen Creek||Earthfill||38||12||Sage Hen Reservoir||5,210||0.00643||0||Squaw Creek Irrigation Company||1938|
Temperatures in Boise National Forest are generally warm to hot during the summer with high temperatures often ranging from 80 to 90 °F (27 to 32 °C) throughout the forest. Lower elevations can experience temperatures in excess over 100 °F (38 °C) during the summer. In the winter average temperatures are between 29 and 9 °F (−2 and −13 °C). Idaho’s mountain ranges can block cold Arctic air from moving into the area in the winter, but when it does, these cold air masses can stagnate in the Snake and Salmon river valleys, enabling very cold temperatures to persist. Summer and fall are generally dry, while intense short-duration thunderstorms often occur in late spring and early summer as moisture from the Gulf of Mexico interacts with warm temperatures and steep topography. Average snowfall ranges from 55 inches (140 cm) in drier areas and at lower elevations to 70 inches (180 cm) in wetter areas and higher elevations. Warm, moist air from the Pacific Ocean often brings rain at lower elevations in addition to snowfall throughout the forest during the winter. The influence of these Pacific maritime air masses increases as latitude increases in the forest. The growing season within the forest ranges from over 150 days in lower elevations to less than 30 days in alpine areas.:I-10
The first people entered Idaho near the end of the last ice age at the end of the Pleistocene with evidence of human habitation up to 10-15,000 years ago at Wilson Butte Cave, which was temporarily occupied by people hunting bison on the Snake River Plain. A change of climate around 7000 years ago dried up much of the Great Basin forcing the Shoshone people northward into the mountainous areas of central Idaho.:3 Most of what is now Boise National Forest was sparsely inhabited by Native Americans, however several archaeological sites, including campsites, rock shelters, burial grounds, and pictographs have been found along rivers in the area.:4 Trappers and fur traders that were descendants of Europeans first arrived in the area in the early 1800s, starting with John Jacob Astor's Pacific Fur Company in October 1811. Donald Mackenzie and Francois Payette trapped in the area of Boise National Forest in 1819.:7 By 1840 the fur trade was coming to an end, but the westward migration on the Oregon Trail, which passed south of the forest, was beginning.:8 The first settlers moved into the mountains in 1860s after gold was discovered in Idaho, which forced many of the Shoshone out and led conflicts throughout Idaho, including the Bannock War in southern Idaho.:4
George Grimes and Moses Splawn were the first to discover gold in the forest at Grimes Creek on August 2, 1862. Subsequent gold discoveries at Rocky Bar in 1863 and Atlanta in 1864 increased the rush of people to Idaho, and in 1863 Idaho City surpassed Portland, Oregon as the largest city in the Pacific Northwest with a population of 6,267. The Idaho gold rush was largely over by 1870, and the population of the Boise Basin fell from 16,000 to 3,500.:10 In 1898 the forest's first gold dredge was built in Placerville and was followed by several others. By 1951 when the last dredges shut down, at least 2.3 million ounces (65.2 million grams) of gold were produced from the Boise Basin area.:12 Silver was mined along the Crooked River from 1882 until 1921, but a silver mine at Silver Mountain proved unsuccessful.:13 A shortage of Mercury during World War II led the mines in the Stibnite area to become the second largest producer of mercury in the country and the largest producer of tungsten.:16 The most important known placer deposit of niobium and tantalum in the United States is located in Bear Valley. From 1953 until 1959 dredges there produced $12.5 million ($101 million today) in niobium, tantalum, and uranium. Other minerals mined in the forest include antimony and molybdenum:15
After the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1933, nine camps and eight subcamps were established in Boise National Forest, but the number of camps was reduced from 1934 until the program was closed in 1942. Work conducted by the CCC included the construction of guard houses, fire lookouts, campgrounds, roads, and trails, among other facilities. The CCC also worked to improve fish habitat and suppress fires as necessary.:55-56
There are over 70 campgrounds in Boise National Forest, however some campgrounds are more developed than others. As in most national forests, the majority of the land in Boise National Forest is open to dispersed camping (outside of developed campgrounds). Rivers in Boise National Forest offer the opportunity for rafting and kayaking through rapids up to class four, as on the South Fork and main stems of the Payette River. Numerous developed boat launch sites provide access to rivers for whitewater enthusiasts. The Dagger Falls boat launch is the primary launching site for visitors to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The forest's Trinity Mountain Recreation Area includes the highest drivable (4-wheel drive recommended) road in Idaho, which ascends to the Trinity Mountain Lookout at an elevation of over 9,400 feet (2,900 m) One of the forest's fire lookouts, Deadwood Lookout, is now available as a cabin for the public to rent, among other sites. Bicycles are allowed on forest roads and more than 1,300 miles (2,100 km) of multiple-use trails in the forest.
Boise National Forest contains over 1,200 miles (1,900 km) of trails that are open to motorized recreation. The Danskin Mountains Off-Highway Vehicle Trail System contains 150 miles (240 km) of motorocycle and ATV trails on 60,000 acres (24,000 ha) of land that is generally open from April through November. Motorized boating is permitted on Anderson Ranch Reservoir, Deadwood Reservoir, and Warm Lake.
In 2013 revenues from recreation and special use fees totaled $454,635, while expenses totaled $352,550. The difference is allocated to the following season's startup costs.
During winter, visitors to the forest can participate in activities including snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and downhill and cross-country skiing. The Bogus Basin ski area is located within the forest north of Boise and has seven chairlifts and 53 runs on 2,600 acres (1,100 ha) of skiable terrain. There are 137 miles (220 km) of groomed snowmobile trails in the Garden Valley system in the Emmett Ranger District. There are several Mongolian-style yurts available for rental in the forest during the winter.
Boise National Forest is home to three of Idaho’s scenic byways. The Payette River Scenic Byway is an 80-mile (130 km) route between Eagle and McCall that follows Idaho State Highway 55. The route follows the Payette River between McCall and Horseshoe Bend, but the majority of the highway does not pass through Boise National Forest; only a small portion north of Horseshoe Bend passes through the Emmett Ranger District. Over half of the 35-mile (56 km) Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway, which travels between highway 55 and Lowman, passes through the forest. The Wildlife Canyon Byway parallels the South Fork of the Payette River and is signed as the Banks-Lowman Road. The Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway is a 130-mile (210 km) road between Stanley and Boise following Idaho State Highway 21. The Ponderosa Pine Byway passes over Arrowrock Reservoir and through Idaho City and Lowman, where it connects with the Wildlife Canyon Byway. North and east of Lowman the byway partially follows the South Fork of the Payette River before ascending to the 7,037-foot (2,145 m) Banner Creek Summit at the forest's boundary with Salmon-Challis National Forest.
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