Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness

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Idaho's largest wildfire is burning entirely within a rugged central Idaho wilderness area and being allowed to play its natural role.

Officials on Wednesday say the 110-square-mile wildfire in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness is burning grass and brush in lower areas and ponderosa pine and Douglas fir at higher elevations.

Officials say they have plans in place to protect bridges, a ranch, a guard station and other high-value sites that could be threatened.

The backcountry Chamberlain Airstrip remains closed due to the lightning-caused fire.

Jim and Holly Akenson

The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area is a step back in time. The area is rough and rugged and few people actually live in this part of central Idaho’s backcountry.

But tucked into the middle of these sprawling public lands is the University of Idaho’s wilderness research station, known as Taylor Ranch. From there, researchers conduct surveys on everything from wolves to bears to cougars to wildfires.

Colleen Back / Idaho Aviation Foundation

The reopening of an iconic backcountry lodge has been pushed to next summer. As KBSX reported last year, the rebuilding of Big Creek Lodge near the Frank Church Wilderness is led by a group of hobby pilots who use the airstrip in the same location. 

Colleen Back of the Idaho Aviation Foundation can’t help but use flying analogies when she talks about the progress and setbacks with the Big Creek Lodge this year.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Three environmental groups have filed a lawsuit challenging a decision by the U.S. Forest Service that allows more than 100 helicopter landings this winter in a central Idaho wilderness area so state wildlife officials can put tracking collars on elk.

Wilderness Watch and two other groups in the lawsuit filed Thursday say the federal agency is violating the Wilderness Act by allowing helicopters into the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.

Bob Dodson

Earlier this year, we told you the story of Idaho Fish and Game parachuting beavers into the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in the late 1940’s. Back then, the idea was to trap problem beavers, put them in special boxes and parachute them from a plane. They were sent to remote areas where they could find a new home.

Idaho Fish and Game

Earlier this year, we brought you the story of beavers parachuting into the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The story spread like wildfire, complete with pictures of the beavers, tucked inside their travel boxes, parachuting into their new homes.

It turns out there’s more to this story.

The U.S. Forest Service has notified a conservation group that Idaho officials will not use a hired hunter to kill wolves in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness this winter.

Earthjustice in a statement says it received the notification Wednesday from the federal agency as required by the settlement of a federal lawsuit.

The letter from Forest Service officials to Earthjustice says the Idaho Department of Fish and Game notified the federal agency of its decision on Friday.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Seven years ago, a beloved lodge in Idaho’s backcountry burned to the ground. The Big Creek Lodge was built in the 1930s in a remote spot in the Payette National Forest. For decades it welcomed people as they headed into the Frank Church Wilderness. A grass airstrip next to the lodge meant many of the guests at Big Creek were pilots.

Now, a group of pilots is rebuilding the lodge.

Marsha Davies

Volunteers are scheduled to break ground Saturday on the rebuilding of the Big Creek Lodge in the Payette National Forest.

For 75 years, Big Creek Lodge was the vacation spot for hundreds of pilots, campers, and firefighters, looking for adventure in the remote Payette National Forest. But seven years ago, the lodge burned to the ground.

Now, the Forest Service and a non-profit group are working to rebuild.

The U.S. Forest Service has approved a gold mining company's plan to reopen a 4-mile road in a central Idaho wilderness and drill core samples to find out if two of its claims are profitable enough to be mined.

The federal agency in a statement Tuesday says Payette National Forest Supervisor Keith Lannom approved American Independence Mines and Minerals Co.'s plan in the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness.

A coalition of conservation groups and the Nez Perce tribe are challenging the U.S. Forest Service's approval of a gold mining company's plan to reopen a 4-mile road in a central Idaho wilderness and drill core samples to find out if two claims are profitable enough to be mined.

The Idaho Conservation League and four other groups this month filed an objection with the federal agency as a first step in a potential lawsuit.

Idaho Fish and Game

More than 60 years ago, Idaho Fish and Game dropped beavers out of a plane and parachuted them into the state's backcountry. This little-known piece of Idaho history stars a crafty Fish and Game officer and a plucky male beaver named Geronimo.

Jason / Flickr Creative Commons

The U.S. Forest Service is asking for public comment on plans to build a road and bring drilling equipment to a remote area of Idaho's Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

American Independence Mines and Mineral Company wants to turn a profit on gold ore near Big Creek on the Payette National Forest.

Bruce Reichert / Idaho Public Television

Idaho Public Television is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act with a sweeping hour-long look at Idaho's wild places. The program Outdoor Idaho traveled to all seven of Idaho’s wilderness areas -- and two proposed wilderness areas -- to tell the story of the state's protected places.

stonebraker
University of Idaho Library

William Allen Stonebraker worked and played in the rugged central Idaho wilderness at the turn of the 20th century and he's left behind a unique legacy of photographs to tell his story. That photo collection has just been released by the University of Idaho Library.