December 21, 2020

Weekly Column: Nez Perce-Clearwater Forests Example Of Collaboration Bringing Results

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

I recently had the opportunity to speak on the Senate floor about important progress underway on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests to improve the health of the Forests that is a great example of the benefits of collaborative efforts.  The following contains parts of the speech and a video of the full speech can be accessed through my website at: www.crapo.senate.gov.

I have been a longtime champion of collaboration to address public lands management

disputes, as collaborative processes are good for the environment and good for natural-resource based economies.  Collaborative problem-solving is a key way to ensure all voices are heard and long-term solutions are crafted. 

The work on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests is a great example of the benefits of collaborative efforts.  The Clearwater Basin Collaborative (CBC), which was officially launched 12 years ago, has had an important role in furthering discussions about the management of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests.  

A total of 536 miles of streams have been restored on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, resulting in the forests being ranked fourth nationwide in miles of streams restored. The forests have a strong partnership with the Nez Perce Tribe, which contributes greatly to its watershed accomplishments.  At the same time, priorities of much needed restoration of landscapes, including water quality improvements, are also providing a supply of raw materials to our local mills.

More work is underway to address significant challenges, but this is the direction we need to

continue to go in delivering long-term results. I commend all those involved in this effort for their hard and exemplary work improving our treasured landscapes.

Other collaborative efforts have laid strong groundwork, or follow in the footsteps of, cooperative work such as this.  In Idaho, we have succeeded with public lands projects, such as the Owyhee Initiative, and are hard at work on others, such as the Kootenai Valley Resource Initiative, the Payette Forest Coalition, the Boise Forest Coalition and others, including the Governor’s Shared Stewardship Task Force.  I also look forward to the soon to be completed recommendations of the Governor’s Salmon Workgroup.

We must continuously work to ensure federal statute and policy empowers collaborative efforts and forest health projects.  Bipartisan legislation pending in this Senate would increase active management of federal forests, cut red tape, reduce frivolous litigation and advance fire risk reduction.  Senators Steve Daines of Montana and Dianne Feinstein of California worked across party lines for months to negotiate the details of the bipartisan S. 4431, the Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act. 

Enactment of sensible, bipartisan legislation such as this, which is also co-sponsored by my fellow Senator from Idaho, Jim Risch, can better enable land managers to reduce wildfire risk and respond effectively to an increasingly virulent, wildfire reality.  This will build on the successful enactment of bipartisan legislation to enable federal agencies to respond to wildfires as they would other natural disasters and end fire borrowing. 

Forests make up 39 percent of the land in Idaho.  They are key to air and water quality and sustain wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.  They support communities through wood and paper product jobs and recreation dollars.  They are the backdrop and means for an unparalleled quality of life.  Their vitality hinges on their effective management. 

I am encouraged by the achievements on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, and I urge continued collaborative efforts to address often contentions, natural resources challenges and the enactment of federal statute that bolsters these collaborative efforts for the betterment of all our communities.

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