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Eye On Boise

Thu., June 30, 2011, 10:25 a.m.

Wettest year in 117 years is also driest period on record for parts of the country…

Harris Sherman, undersecretary of agriculture for natural resources and the environment, said this is the wettest year in the last 117 years. Yet, he said, "We are having the driest period on record in many parts of the country, while we are having the greatest period of flooding that we've had in literally decades in other parts of the country." He displayed a slide showing snowpack in most parts of the Northwest at 150 to 180 percent of normal, but said if it were fully updated, it could be as high as 200 to 300 percent "in most parts of the country." The conditions have only increased the need for forest land restoration efforts, he said.

Sherman agreed with earlier comments by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer that forest restoration efforts need to take place on a "landscape scale." He said, "Random acts of conservation are not enough." Instead of looking at projects to restore 300 or 500 acres, he said, projects should look at areas of 1 million acres. "We just have to do this on a larger scale. ... This can be a great way to employ people and to give strength to rural communities in the future."

Current efforts already under way include partnering with ski areas to restore land on their borders, which is important to the ski areas for fire protection; lift ticket surcharges are funding those efforts, Sherman said. "We need to build public-private partnerships to a greater degree than we have in the past. ... We need to work with recreation interests, with the energy industry, with the utility industry, with the water industry, to come up with joint projects together to help restore these lands to protect the benefits that all of us enjoy."

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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