Timber projects & habitat improvement benefit from Forest Service funding
Washington, D.C. - Members of the Clearwater Basin Collaborative (CBC) and Idaho Senator Mike Crapo say forest health, habitat, recreation and the economy will all benefit from the collaborative process that has led to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Servicecontributing $3.4 million for on-the-ground projects in Idaho recommended by the Collaborative. The Forest Service, which contributed $1 million last year, has indicated it will continue and increase funding under the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program for work that will create jobs in the forest, resulting in forest work and habitat restoration for elk and other species. Crapo convened the CBC in 2008 as a means to reach agreement over land management and resource issues in north-central Idaho's Clearwater River Basin, and the funding announcement comes as the group marks its third anniversary.
The CBC-recommended Selway-Middle Fork proposal is expected to support and provide for more than 300 jobs and lead to additional timber harvest and restoration activities over the ten-year life of the project. Supporters of the program in Idaho say another year of funding will allow forest restoration work to continue in Idaho's Clearwater Basin. When combined with matching funds, supporters say the projects are putting more local contractors to work in the woods, restoring degraded water quality and wildlife habitat and helping protect private property from wildfire.
"Collaboration is working in Idaho and this announcement furthers the process as a national model for ending conflict over land management decisions," Crapo said. "We have seen collaboration work in the Owyhee Initiative and now the Clearwater Basin Collaborative. I salute the efforts of the Collaborative work group, Secretary Vilsack and Chief Tidwell, local officials, the Nez Perce Tribe and others who are helping place collaboration over conflict on our public lands."
"I'm very, very happy Congress has approved funding for the CBC's (Collaborative Forest Landscape Project) proposal," said Alex Irby, Co-Chair of the Collaborative. "For the Clearwater basin, the funding will create new jobs in the forest for restoration work and for the timber industry."
CBC Co-Chair Dale Harris said, "This is great news and it is not just about forest restoration and the creation of new jobs. This collaborative effort represents a sea change in the way that different populations work in the Basin."
"I am happy to see that even in these lean times for federal budgets, Congress is providing funding for this work," said Bill Higgins, Resource Manager with Idaho Forest Group. "This is an indication of the importance of the work that is being accomplished, the additional jobs that will result and recognition of the hard work of all the folks who have come together to find real solutions and reduce conflict for federal land management."
Funding for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program is allocated on a year-by-year basis by Congress as part of the federal budget process. The second year of funding survived potential budget cuts and the program has maintained support from local elected officials in Idaho County and in Congress by Senators Crapo and Jim Risch.
Clearwater County Commission Chairman Don Ebert said, "This is the first step of what hopefully will become a long journey into the new era of forest management. For the first time since I can remember, competing interests have committed to working together to solve problems. This is a 180- degree turn around from the day when everything was automatically a fight and nothing was accomplished. Hopefully we have all outgrown the days when all we did was fight with no results, instead we are working harder to find solutions to better serve diverse interests with actual on the ground results. At the end of the day we all just want to do what we think is right."
"The Clearwater Collaborative is to be commended for working proactively to create jobs in lean times," said Skip Brandt, Idaho County Board of Commissioners. "We hope Congress can continue to back our home-grown initiative and support an investment which will have local and nation-wide benefits."
"The Clearwater Basin Collaborative recognizes that healthy forests and communities depend on each other," says Robyn Miller, North Idaho senior conservation manager for The Nature Conservancy. "This funding is a great step in moving past gridlock to managing forests in ways that benefit wildlife, rivers, outdoor recreation and the economy. Senator Crapo, the U.S. Forest Service and members of the collaborative are charting a hopeful future where both people and nature thrive in the Clearwater."
The Collaborative predicts the new funds will be used to maintain 225 miles of forest roads and trails, improve 1,000 acres of crucial elk habitat, improve fish passage by replacing 3 culverts, restore 25 acres of stream vegetation, increase weed control measures, reduce fire risks on 2,000 acres through prescribed burning and improve forest health on 2,000 acres within the wildland-urban interface through commercial thinning. Members of the Collaborative are quick to point out the majority of that work will be contracted out to private companies. In addition to creating immediate jobs, supporters say the program is also a long-term forest investment, eventually reducing ongoing forest maintenance costs to taxpayers in the future.
"Restoring deteriorating forest roads that leach sediments into our wat er supplies and reducing the risk of expensive wildfires are proactive investments that end up saving money in the long-term," said Brad Brooks, Deputy Director of the Idaho office of The Wilderness Society.
"The Clearwater Basin Collaborative, utilizing the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, positively enhances forest health and improves community economic conditions through partnerships in collaboration, leaving gridlock behind," said Joyce Dearstyne, Executive Director for Framing Our Community, Inc., based in Elk City.
For more information about the Clearwater Collaborative: http://www.clearwaterbasincollaborative.org/.