August 13, 2010

Clearwater Basin Collaborative Funded

$1 million committed for project that could eventually create more than 350 jobs

Lewiston - A collaborative land management effort in Idaho's Clearwater Basin that could create or maintain more than 350 jobs over the next ten years has been selected for federal funding through the U.S. Forest Service. Idaho Senator Mike Crapo convened the Clearwater Basin Collaborative (CBC) Work Group two years ago in an effort to find consensus on land management issues such as timber harvest, habitat improvement and species management.

Today, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell agreed to allocate an initial $1 million for the CBC out of funding under the Forest Landscape and Restoration Act (FLRA). Nine other projects, including one in Montana, also received startup funding.

The Forest Service established a review panel to offer recommendations on which projects to choose for funding under the Forest Restoration Act. Members of the Clearwater Basin Collaborative traveled to Washington, D.C. last month to discuss funding recommendations and also met with Crapo in his Washington office. Today, Crapo said he was not surprised the Secretary and Forest Service Chief agreed with their agency's recommendations on funding.

"It is no accident that the Clearwater Basin Collaborative is being universally recognized as a management model for the nation," Crapo said. "Collaboration breaks barriers. Collaboration brings people together to find common solutions. Now, the Clearwater project may soon bring more than 300 good-paying jobs into the Clearwater Basin in a ten-year effort that will improve the land, habitat and employment situation for all Idahoans and Idaho fish and wildlife. I salute the hard work of the Forest Service and members of the Collaborative work group that have brought us to the point we are today."

"The selection of our proposal offers us a whole new way of doing forest restoration and stewardship while providing increased employment to the local communities," said CBC Co-Chair Dale Harris. "We should take a moment to celebrate. And then it will time to roll up sleeves and get to work."

"This proposal is a resounding success for the U.S. Forest Service, Clearwater Basin Collaborative, and most importantly for the landscape and our communities. Healthy forests are vital for people and nature, providing clean water and wildlife habitat, supporting livelihoods, and creating recreational opportunities for the public," said Robyn Miller of The Nature Conservancy, and a member of the CBC work group.

According to the Forest Service, the Selway-Middle Fork proposal outlined in the CBC is a comprehensive restoration strategy that is designed to restore and maintain ecological conditions within the 1.4 million acre ecosystem. Proposed restoration activities may include actions to reduce the risk of severe fire and reduce firefighting costs; promote vegetation that is resistant to insects, disease and wildfire; improve water quality; improve conditions for big-game habitat and native and anadromous fish; reduce non-native plant species and promote the growth of native species. The use of biomass, creating jobs, and enhancing recreation are also part of the proposal.

Crapo noted it is a good day for collaboration and conservation in Idaho. The U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management announced earlier today $2 million in funding for land acquisition under willing-buyer and willing-seller provisions to implement conservation and wilderness elements under Crapo's Owyhee Initiative proposal, which was signed into law last year.

"The Clearwater Basin Collaborative Selway-Middle Fork Clearwater Project is a great example of what can be accomplished when a diverse group of individuals working to together in a shared vision of enhancing and protecting the ecological and economic health of the forests, rivers, and communities with the Clearwater Basin by working across a diversity of interests," Crapo said.