Benewah Creek, ID
A tributary to Coeur D’Alene Lake of northern Idaho, Benewah Creek is one of the few remaining low elevation watersheds in the Coeur D’Alene basin that supports both lake-migratory and stream-resident life history types of westslope cutthroat trout.
However, historic land use patterns of the past 100 years have led to the alteration of riparian and associated wetlands, widespread stream channel instability and habitat simplification, localized lowering of groundwater tables, and stream water temperature increases. These conditions support stable but depressed populations of cutthroat trout. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s fundamental goal has been to identify restoration and enhancement needs in areas that have the greatest potential to improve populations of depressed native cutthroat trout populations.
The Tribe’s early efforts to restore Benewah Creek included large-scale, on-the-ground restoration projects designed to improve habitat for native cutthroat trout. However, over time Tribal biologists realized that their ability to monitor the effect of these efforts was insufficient to inform future restoration management decisions.
In 2005, BEF collaborated with the Tribe to develop a long-term, comprehensive restoration approach where ongoing monitoring—supported in part by BEF’s 10-year funding commitment—would continually assess restoration progress and inform future restoration activities. As a Model Watershed Program partner, the Tribe receives committed funding over a full 10-year period to support restoration monitoring and the ongoing evaluation of their work by an independent scientific review team.
Beyond planning support, BEF has facilitated three independent science reviews over the course of the Tribe’s participation in the program. This support has helped the Tribe answer specific questions regarding their restoration approach and monitoring designs.
The Coeur d’Alene Tribe has developed a true model for watershed restoration and trout recovery in Northern Idaho by cultivating community support, strategically planning and implementing restoration projects, and monitoring the effects of their restoration activities. Since joining BEF’s Model Watershed Program, the Tribe has used data from their monitoring work to identify and prioritize restoration actions that they expect will have the greatest potential to improve habitat conditions and benefit native cutthroat trout.
In addition, the Tribe has built their monitoring approach with input from outside experts (via the BEF sponsored science review processes). This outside expert review helped them better understand the ecology of the target species and how to direct their efforts to achieve the greatest level of impact.
—Angelo Vitale, Fisheries Program Manager, Coeur d’Alene Tribe
Department of Natural Resources
Fish, Water and Wildlife Program
850 A Street, P.O. Box 408
Plummer, ID 83851