The Forest Service recently announced the acquisition of about a mile of property along Panther Creek, a tributary of the Salmon River, with the intent of further protecting and rehabilitating the stream and surrounding riparian habitat.

The Forest Service is spending $650,000 on the project to protect and restore the stream, its migrating salmon and steelhead, and to offer recreational access.

“The investment will restore habitat for anadromous and resident salmonids, which in turn will improve fishing opportunities as public access is restored,” the Salmon-Challis National Forest said in a news release. “Habitat restoration planning and implementation will be a collaborative effort between the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and the Salmon-Challis National Forest.”

The Forest Service said the project should directly help the area’s economy by hiring local contractors to run heavy equipment and allowing tribal members and staff to perform restoration work. The project hopes to specifically improve salmon and steelhead spawning habitat that was degraded from a history of cobalt and copper mining decades ago. The land was acquired in 2020 by Western Rivers Conservancy and conveyed to the Forest Service using money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“While Panther Creek has come a long way in terms of water quality, high-functioning spawning and rearing habitats remain degraded in places,” Western Rivers Conservancy said in a news release. “The parcel that (the conservancy) acquired lies about midway up Panther Creek and was a private inholding within the National Forest, slated for development. The stretch of the stream that runs through the property is considered a top priority for salmon, steelhead and bull trout recovery by both the U.S. Forest Service and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. By purchasing the land and conveying it to the National Forest, we will set the stage for restoration and ensure the property remains conserved forever.”

The road alongside Panther Creek is also part of the Idaho Birding Trail. The new acquisition allows birders and anglers more public access.

“The acquisition of this property along Panther Creek will enable better land and watershed management with the planned restoration for Endangered Species Act-listed fish, increase hunting and fishing access as well as providing improved fishing opportunities,” said Charles A. Mark, Salmon-Challis forest supervisor.