Clearwater Basin

Logging, road construction and reckless off-road vehicle use threaten Idaho’s Clearwater Basin, one of the wildest natural landscapes in the lower 48 states.

The Clearwater Basin encompasses millions of acres of forests, rivers and mountains just south of Idaho’s northern panhandle, providing habitat for wildlife such as wolves, elk, mountain lions, mountain goats and fish including Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. The Clearwater Basin's 1.2 million acres of Roadless Areas also provide world class recreation for backcountry skiers, hunters, backpackers and hikers.

Little of the Clearwater Basin is permanently protected, and we need to remedy that. The Wilderness Society is working in the Clearwater Basin to gain permanent protection for wilderness and rivers, and preserve landscape connections that would allow species to safely travel between Central Idaho and Western Montana, and to help secure important federal funding for stewardship of the land.

Work we are doing

Clearwater Basin (Idaho). Credit: Northwest Power and Conservation Council, flickr.

Wildlands designation

The Wilderness Society has long been focused on permanently protecting landscapes in the Clearwater Basin that support robust wildlife populations and great recreational values. We have helped develop a proposal that would permanently protect over 500,000 acres of the Clearwater Basin and 170 miles of its rivers.

The Wilderness Society is a leader in the Clearwater Basin Collaborative (CBC), which represents conservation, recreation and business interests, among others. The coalition seeks to develop a long term vision for the future of the Clearwater Basin.


The Wilderness Society has identified the most important fish and wildlife habitat in the Clearwater Basin for permanent protection from logging, road-building and off-road vehicle abuse. Specifically, we hope to do this by designating 500,000 acres here as federal wilderness or under other special status to protect the landscape’s wild character.  

Wild and Scenic Rivers

The Clearwater Basin’s 2,200 miles of wild rivers provide crucial spawning habitat for Chinook salmon and bull and steelhead trout, and great recreation opportunities for anglers and whitewater enthusiasts. We are working to protect over 170 miles of these waterways as “wild and scenic rivers.”

Steelhead trout. Credit: Ryndon Ricks, flickr.

Conservation funding

We are working with lawmakers to ensure that the Clearwater Basin receives appropriate federal funding through land management agencies to implement habitat restoration projects. We are advocating for the funding of projects including decommissioning old roads to improve habitat and water quality, performing prescribed burns to reduce the chance of future catastrophic wildfires and reducing infestation of invasive weeds.

Preparing for the effects of climate change

With climate change, temperature and precipitation patterns are likely to shift in the Crown of the Continent region, stressing wildlife populations. The Clearwater Basin plays a vital role in connecting several areas to the Crown of the Continent ecosystem in northwest Montana to wild lands in Central Idaho. Maintaining and restoring connectivity between landscapes like these is one of the most important steps that can be taken to ensure the success of ecosystems and wildlife facing challenges from a changing climate.

Our partners

The Wilderness Society is a leader in the Clearwater Basin Collaborative (CBC), which represents conservation, recreation and business interests, among others.

Experience the Clearwater Basin

Clearwater Basin (Idaho). Credit: Northwest Power and Conservation Council, flickr.

One of the most dynamic, healthy and natural landscapes in the lower 48 states, Idaho’s Clearwater Basin includes millions of acres of rugged forests, rivers and mountains.


  • Michael Reinemer

    Rather than using taxpayer dollars, the program’s funds come from a small slice of royalties from oil and gas leases in publicly owned offshore waters. 

    The 2017 budget would invest $900 million for conservation and recreation projects, which is the annual amount authorized by the 1964 bill that created this popular program. However, actual funding approved by Congress has traditionally fallen far short of that amount. 

    Alan Rowsome at The Wilderness Society commented:

  • Anonymous

    “The proposed guidelines from the Bureau of Land Management governing natural gas waste are a huge step forward toward ensuring public resources on federal lands are used for Americans’ benefit, and not wasted.

    “For too long, oil and gas companies have been able to vent and flare unlimited quantities of natural gas and ignore massive leaks from outdated infrastructure. These unregulated actions have immense consequences for American taxpayers, who lose out on more than $330 million annually from gas that is not being sold.

  • Jennifer Dickson

    The 2016 Utah Public Lands Initiative (PLI) draft released by Utah Representative Rob Bishop fails to provide adequate protections for scenic public lands in the state, would undermine bedrock environmental laws and threatens to despoil key public lands.