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The Idaho Panhandle is the northern region of the U.S. State of Idaho that encompasses the ten northernmost counties of Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Clearwater, Idaho, Kootenai, Latah, Lewis, Nez Perce, Shoshone. Residents of the panhandle refer to the region as North Idaho. The southern part of this region, from Moscow south, is sometimes referred to as North Central Idaho, with the rest as North Idaho. The panhandle is bordered by the state of Washington to the west, Montana to the east and British Columbia to the north.
Coeur d'Alene is the largest city within the Idaho panhandle; however, nearby Spokane, Washington is the region's largest city and also the location of the regional airport, Spokane International Airport (GEG). Other important cities include Lewiston, Moscow (home of the University of Idaho), Post Falls, Hayden, Sandpoint, and the smaller towns of St. Maries and Bonners Ferry. East of Coeur d'Alene is the Silver Valley, which follows Interstate 90 to the Montana border at Lookout Pass.
The region has a land area of 21,012.64 square miles (54,422.5 km2), or 25.39 percent of Idaho's land area; there is also 323.95 square miles (839.07 km²) of water area. The estimated population of the Idaho Panhandle as of the 2010 census is 317,751 or 20.3% of Idaho's population of 1,567,582.
The Idaho Panhandle region observes Pacific Time north of the western-flowing Salmon River in the southern part of Idaho County. The rest of the state to the south observes Mountain Time, which begins at Riggins. Though North Idaho is at the same longitude as southern Idaho, the reasons for the different time zones are: 1.) because the commercial and transportation center for the region is Spokane, Washington, (and now the media market); and 2.) there are many cross-border towns and cities that are connected, led by Spokane with Coeur d'Alene/Post Falls followed by Pullman (WSU) with Moscow (UI), and Clarkston with Lewiston. Unlike the Idaho-Montana border, which consists of a long mountain range, and much of the Idaho-Oregon border, which is the Snake River, there isn't a natural boundary between Idaho-Washington. The Panhandle is isolated from southern Idaho due to distance and the east-west mountain ranges that naturally separate the state. The passage by vehicle was arduous until significant highway improvements were made on U.S. Route 95 in North Central Idaho from 1965-95 (Lapwai Canyon, White Bird Hill, Lewiston grade, and Lawyer's Canyon). Had the border been made today, the Panhandle of Idaho would likely be part of Washington, due to local geography. Recognition of this disconnection has caused the Idaho government to begin significant improvements to make U.S. Route 95 a multi-lane highway to connect North Idaho.
The Automobile Association of America (AAA) separates Idaho into two parts, where the Panhandle is part of AAA Washington and the southern part is part of AAA Oregon/Idaho
The Idaho Panhandle region was part of Washington Territory from its founding in 1853 until the formation of Idaho Territory in 1863. The Territory of Idaho was much larger than the later state of Idaho, including all of modern Montana and most of modern Wyoming. The panhandle was created when the Montana Territory was organized from the Idaho Territory in 1864. The capital at Lewiston, Idaho of the Idaho Territory was made in 1862 during the American Civil War period. At that time, Lewiston had the largest population in the Pacific Northwest exceeding those of Portland and Seattle combined.
When the seat of Idaho territorial government was "moved or stolen" to Boise from Lewiston in 1865, it was thought that the panhandle region was hard to govern. Early attempts were made to rejoin the Idaho Panhandle to Washington, one being the 1878 Washington State Constitution, which specified boundaries for the proposed state of Washington that included the part of Idaho Territory north of 45° N latitude. A proposal was made to make the northern part of the state its own state. The proposal failed, but was attempted again in 1901. This time it was proposed to join the panhandle with eastern Washington to form the "State of Lincoln", but failed a second time. To this day there is a once-per-generation talk of either the Panhandle joining Washington or the combining of the Panhandle, eastern Washington, and possibly eastern Oregon to form a 51st state. Part of the lore of North Idaho is the 1865 "theft" of the territorial seat to Boise. As an olive branch from the more populous southern Idaho to North Idaho, the University of Idaho was placed in Moscow in 1889, the largest city in the north at the time.
North Idaho has a strong hunting culture. Residents are highly conservative and sometimes lean libertarian.
North Idaho has not elected a governor since the re-election of Cecil Andrus (D) in 1974. Andrus, an Oregon native, was a resident of Orofino when first elected in 1970. (Boise was his residence during his later campaigns of 1986 and 1990). The most recent member of the U.S. Congress from the Panhandle is Compton I. White, Jr. (D), last elected in 1964.
The North Idaho region is most noted for silvaculture, the growing of trees and the production of lumber through the regions 12 lumber mills. The production of grass seeds and hops for beer production are also significant. Nine microbreweries have brewing operations in the area, making North Idaho highly characteristic of the Pacific Northwest. There are also many cattle ranches for raising beef.