Elk NetworkVolunteers Remove Spools of Wire High in the Rugged Idaho/Montana Mountains

Volunteer News | September 23, 2021

On Thursday July 8th, 2021, over 50 RMEF Volunteers met at the West Portal of the Taft Tunnel on the Hiawatha Trail in Northern Idaho.  The Hiawatha Trail is an old railroad grade that has been converted to a bike trail near Mullan, Idaho.  The fact that the path was an old rail line is the reason for the work project.  The original railroad was used by electric trains that were powered by wires paralleling the tracks.  When the tracks were removed, the powerlines remained.  Over the years, the poles and wire have fell into disrepair and created a fatal hazard to the wildlife when antlered animals become ensnared in the wire and eventually perish.  More can be learned about the history of this project by watching the RMEF film “The Letter”.

This wire removal project began in 2020 with the removal of 3/8ths of a mile of 9 strands of wire.  That first year there were about 40 volunteers for one day on the trail.  In 2021, the project consisted of two days on the trail and 1 ¼ miles of wire removed.  Many of the same volunteers from 2020 returned in 2021 as well as many new volunteers.

This year, the volunteers had access to a wire spooler that made the job of containing the wire as it came off the mountainside much easier.  The volunteers split up into teams to cut, pull and spool as the entire crew moved across the mountain next to the trail.  Water and lunch breaks were stationed along the trail as the weather was quite warm.  Even though the work was strenuous, the satisfaction of what was being accomplished was amazing.

Several of Thursday’s volunteers camped nearby and returned on Friday for another day of work.  They were joined by many “fresh” volunteers to complete this year’s effort.  When a group like this comes together with a common passion, great things can be accomplished.

We will be returning to the trail July 7th and 8th, 2022 to tackle another section of this project.  Please email wbrood@rmef.org if you would like to join us.