Southeast Idaho is a war zone most people don’t know about.
Conifers creep into and crowd out aspen stands, which supply valuable, life-sustaining habitat for elk and other wildlife.
In fact, research shows encroaching conifers caused more than a 60 percent decline in Idaho aspen.
The Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and other partners teamed up with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to join the fight.
Dating back to 2008, the multi-year collaborative effort combined to put more than $600,000 on the ground as part of the more than 24,000-acre Fall Creek Aspen Improvement Project eight miles southwest of Swan Valley.
The Fall Creek and Bear Creek watersheds provide vital habitat as important spring, summer and fall range for elk and deer as well as a key migration corridor.
Crews used a combination of mechanical slashing and prescribed burning, coupled with pre and post herbicide spot weed treatment, to remove invading conifers and treat the area within aspen stands but left larger, isolated conifers for security cover.
The treatments mimic how fire would have naturally burned the landscape and enhance vegetation diversity by stimulating the growth of aspen and other mountain browse.