Clearwater Basin could be national model for management, conservation, jobs
Lewiston - The Clearwater Basin Collaborative, convened by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo in 2008, celebrated its second anniversary today in Lewiston with a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) and the potential to create more than 350 jobs with up to $80 million in funding. The co-chairs and members of the project approved the MOU to work with the U.S. Forest Service on specific projects involved with the collaborative. The Idaho project seeks consensus to manage public lands in the Clearwater Basin of north central Idaho and has been recommended by the Forest Service's Region 1 as a national model for collaboration and funding under the Forest Landscape Restoration Act (FLRA).
The Clearwater Basin Collaborative (CBC) envisions a ten-year plan to create new forest jobs and restore wildlife, while ending decades of conflict over elk habitat, public lands access, timber harvesting and the restoration of streams and fish management. A final decision about the project's funding from the Forest Service could come as soon as this summer.
"We have seen the collaborative model result in success with the Owyhee Initiative, now law, and hopefully soon with the Clearwater Basin Collaborative and in other areas," Crapo said. "When all sides agree to leave lawsuits behind, we can truly find solutions that are better for the environment and better for the economy. The members of the Collaborative and the Forest Service are to be commended for their hard work and we will continue to advocate for use of the collaborative model in the Congress."
Collaborative Co-Chair Alex Irby of Orofino said the Clearwater project builds on 30 years of effort. "These people are different. We started with 110 names; now we have 24 organizations centered on good folks with the ability to work with others. That is what has made the difference," Irby said.
Co-Chair Dale Harris of Missoula said the collaborative model works where others have failed. "The same old warrior-style politics just don't work anymore. We're here to solve problems in a way that is not about lawsuits and litigation and I hope these projects are funded," he said.
Bill Higgins of Idaho Forest Group oversees four sawmills, including one in Grangeville. As a member of the CBC, he called the effort "groundbreaking." "I recognize we're not going to manage all the activity in the entire forest. Natural processes have their place because of the wild nature of the Clearwater Basin. But we can manage those areas that have been roaded in the past and are adjacent to private lands. We can provide economic benefits and a tool for the restoration work. We can do both," he said.
Optimism about the process is also key, said Scott Stouder of Trout Unlimited, also a member of the Clearwater Basin Collaborative. "This works when everything else fails. We're focused on success. This collaborative is getting results faster because everyone stays positive and comes up with solutions," Stouder said.
Collaboration is one of the best ways to achieve economic development "while also reaching the conservation goals that keep Idaho Idaho," said Jonathan Oppenheimer of the Idaho Conservation League (ICL) and member of the CBC. "The ICL is committed to a pragmatic approach to conservation. Working with stakeholders at the local and state level is a great way to achieve conservation success," Oppenheimer noted.
Don Ebert, the chairman of the Clearwater County Commission, is a CBC member who also attended today's meetings in Lewiston. "We are on the verge of success and the key to that success is that we all want to succeed even though we are diverse interests working together."
Nez Perce and Clearwater National Forest Rick Brazell today accepted the memorandum of understanding moving the CBC process forward with the Forest Service and the Nez Perce Tribe. Crapo and CBC members announced the regional funding initiatives last week in Lewiston.
Crapo originally convened the Clearwater Basin Collaborative two years ago. He chaired the first meeting of the group in Lewiston on May 29, 2008.
MEMBERS OF THE CLEARWATER BASIN COLLABORATIVE:
Ron Aldrich, Citizen at Large
Skip Brandt, Idaho County Commissioner
Brad Brooks, The Wilderness Society
Dave Cadwallader, Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Orville Daniels, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Joyce Dearstyne, Framing Our Community
Randy Doman, Citizen at Large
Don Ebert, Clearwater County Commissioner
Holly Endersby, Idaho Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
Dave Galantuomini, Public Access Year Round (PLAY)
Larry Greene, Jr., Nez Perce Tribe
Dale Harris, Co-chair, Great Burn Study Group
Bill Higgins, Idaho Forest Group
Alex Irby, Co-chair, Public Lands Access Year Round (PLAY)
Larry Jakub, Citizen at Large
Heather Leach, Idaho Department of Labor
Intermountain Forest Group
Stan Leach, Independent Logger
Robyn Miller, The Nature Conservancy
Jonathan Oppenheimer, Idaho Conservation League
Barb Opdahl, Idaho Outfitters and Guides
Bill Sedivy, Idaho Rivers United
Scott Stouder, Trout Unlimited
Mike Weger, Clearwater Paper Corporation