What We Do: Restoration and Collaboration
The Hells Canyon Collaborative project is a community-based project bringing together HCPC, Wallowa County, The Wilderness Society, Wildlands CPR, Wallowa Resources, The Forest Service, Wallowa Forest Products, City of Joseph, The Nature Conservancy, The Nez Perce Tribe, and Oregon Trout to collaborate on restoration projects within the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. It was initiated in late 2005, with HCPC as a founding member.
Brian Kelly and Whitman College student Cori Hach
survey roads in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.
The Hells Canyon Collaborative spent much of their early meetings developing a charter (pdf), which defined the agreed upon roles and the scope of the Collaborative. The time spent developing this Charter has helped to ensure a solid foundation for the Collaborative, ensuring trust-building and development of relationships between diverse partners and thus allowing for cooperation towards completion of projects.
An important focus that came from these early discussions was an agreement to implement the 2003 Comprehensive Management Plan for the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, which includes valuable positive direction for the restoration of this important ecosystem. The Hells Canyon NRA covers more than 652,000 acres in Oregon and Idaho and extends northward to the Washington state border. Hells Canyon is 7,993 feet deep from the nearby mountain peaks to the Snake River. It is the deepest river canyon in North America. The area contains an impressive diversity of wildlife habitat and plant communities, and is the linchpin ecosystem between the Rockies and the Cascades and Coast Range.
Once the Collaborative adopted their Charter, they formulated their first project: road closures in the Overlook II area.
Overlook II Roads Project
The Overlook II restoration project is closing 73 miles of roads in an ecologically important part of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. Benefits include protecting fish and wildlife habitat, improving soil and water quality, and reducing the spread of invasive weeds.
In 1996, the Forest Service scheduled 73 miles of primitive roads to be closed as a part of the Hells Canyon Overlook II Environmental Assessment process. It was not known, however, how many of these roads actually had been effectively closed. So ten years later, Hells Canyon Preservation Council embarked on a project to complete this road restoration project.
Key elements of the project:
- involve diverse partners through the Hells Canyon Collaborative
- inventory the 73 miles of roads
- analyze the collected data
- create a plan to reduce road density
- implement the road closures on-the-ground.
Public access and motorized travel within the area will be maintained. People who use the area for hunting, hiking, firewood cutting, wildlife-viewing, huckleberry-picking and other recreational activities will continue to be able to enjoy motorized access throughout the area. The road closures reduce the overall density of roads in the area, however, and that is helping to restore its ecological integrity.
Completed Road Closure Steps:
- Apply for grant and receive funds
- Perform on-the-ground reconnaissance of the project area
- Present the project to the Hells Canyon Collaborative and obtain consensus to proceed with a road inventory
- Provide a field trip to project area for Hells Canyon Collaborative
- Plan the data collection & design data collection form
- Train Whitman College students to perform road inventory
- Perform the road inventory in the field
- Compile, edit, & field-check road inventory data
- Complete details of the field work
- Report on road inventory to Hells Canyon Collaborative at end of the field season
- Enter the road inventory data into a spreadsheet
- Enter the road inventory data into GIS (Geographic Information System)
- Produce maps displaying road inventory information
- Present results to Wallowa County Natural Resources Advisory Committee
- Present the analyzed data to the Hells Canyon Collaborative and obtain consensus approving the work plan (designate the open routes throughout the Overlook road system using road signs & to install gates in select locations)
- Meet with USFS District Ranger regarding implementation of project on the ground
- Meet with USFS Engineering staff regarding technical specifications for signs & gates
- Research and order signposts and decals
- Install 40 signposts with Whitman College students
- Install an additional 25 signposts to complete installation outside of seasonal closure areas
- Maintain communications with Collaborative partners
- Complete required grant reports
Work to be Completed in 2008:
- Install 20 carsonite signposts on seasonally open roads
- Apply a white arrow decal to each signpost
- Install an informational sign at each of the two entrances to the road system explaining the designated route system
- Install three gates
- Coordinate with and inform the Hells Canyon Collaborative, the Wallowa County Natural Resources Advisory Committee and the US Forest Service