By Jonathan Oppenheimer and Alex Irby
For too long, conflict and controversy have been the catchwords that have defined public forests of the Clearwater Basin. But that’s starting to change.
Leading the charge to change that dynamic is a diverse set of individuals who were convened by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo in 2008. The Clearwater Basin Collaborative (CBC) is made up of 21 members who represent the interests of Clearwater and Idaho Counties, conservation, the Nez Perce Tribe, timber, motorized recreation, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, outfitters, rural economic development, wildlife, and the public at-large.
The CBC works collaboratively to enhance and protect the ecological and economic health of the forests, rivers and communities by working across a diversity of interests. The CBC provides recommendations concerning the use and management of lands within the Clearwater Basin. With two-thirds of the entire basin under the management of the U.S. Forest Service, much of the efforts have appropriately focused on management activities in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest.
One of the significant accomplishments of the CBC has been the successful implementation of the Selway-Middle Fork Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration project. Since 2010, the project has attracted over $10 million in direct federal investments, along with over $3.5 million in matching funds from partner organizations. The project has created or sustained over 126 full and part-time jobs and has resulted in over 47,149 acres that have been managed to reduce fire risk, restore native vegetation, improve watershed condition, and deliver logs to local mills. More than 11 million board feet of timber is currently expected off the Selway-Middle Fork project, with more to come.
In addition, the CBC is providing comments and collaborative input on 17 different Forest Service management projects across the Basin. Field trips occur regularly during the summer and fall to evaluate the projects on the ground.
Yet the work of the CBC expands beyond the forest boundary, by working to support each others’ goals, the group has promoted efforts around the Basin to:
- Keep the Dworshak State Park open for business,
- Attract the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program to Pierce,
- Develop a 242-mile North-South ATV Route between Avery and Elk City,
- Promote wildlife habitat restoration,
- Ensure support for counties, and
- Advocate for education and job-training opportunities
Finally, as part of an effort to settle long-standing disputes over land management, the CBC is considering recommendations regarding new Wilderness, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and a National Recreation Area designation for some special places like the Mallard-Larkins, Kelly Creek, and Meadow Creek.
The full CBC meets monthly, usually the 4th Wednesday of the month at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Clearwater Region Office at 3316 16th St. in Lewiston. Regular meetings of the Landscape Health and Function, Rural Economies, Land Allocation and Recreation Subcommittees occur between the full CBC meetings. All meetings are open to the public and input is encouraged.
Jonathan Oppenheimer is Co-Chair of the CBC’s Rural Economies Subcommittee and the Monitoring Advisory Committee. Alex Irby is Co-Chair of the CBC.
ABOUT THE CLEARWATER RC&D COUNCIL
The Clearwater Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that supports natural resource and community development projects within a 5-county area of north-central Idaho.