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

    The Wilderness Society commends the Obama Administration for making history today by quadrupling the size of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, now the largest protected area in the world, measuring 582,578 square miles.

  • Michael Reinemer

    The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument will be a unit of the National Park Service and was announced on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, which was established on August 25, 1916.

  • Max Greenberg

    The next fiscal year starts on Oct. 1, meaning that Congress is running out of time to cobble together "must-pass" appropriations legislation that will pay for the day-to-day expenses of the federal government.

    But in what has become a sad annual commentary on some leaders' dereliction of America's conservation tradition, the process is gummed up with counterproductive “riders” that have no place in the appropriations process, and would hurt wildlands right when they sorely need our help.