July 27, 2013 in Opinion

Guest opinion: Collaborative work on basin plan a model

Derrick Reeves
 

People are fond of saying “Idaho is what America was.” This is particularly true in the Clearwater Basin, which is Idaho at its best.

The Clearwater is a great place to live, work and raise a family. It’s also one of the greatest places in North America for hunting and fishing. That’s why Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has invested five years into the Clearwater Basin Collaborative and is proud to support the agreement and work plan reached May 22. This agreement provides a path forward that will benefit public land and water and benefit the economy of Clearwater and Idaho counties.

The Clearwater Basin is famous for its fishing – from mighty sea-run steelhead to delicate trout in the headwater streams and lakes. It also includes 6 million acres of big-game habitat, from elk and deer to mountain goat and mountain lion. Hunting and fishing is a passion for local families and also generates millions of dollars of economic activity annually.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers believes that conserving and protecting wildlife habitats can fit hand-in-hand with other economic activity, if we work together and plan ahead.

With such a mindset, the Clearwater Basin Collaborative reached agreement on a total package to address timber production, restoring damaged watersheds, economic stability, land and water protection, enhanced motorized recreation and secure funding for rural counties. The signing of the agreement and work plan was unanimous by the 20 groups involved and represented years of building trust and respect.

As a result of the collaborative, annual timber harvest is projected to increase substantially. The Selway-Middle Fork (Clear Creek) Project alone is expected to provide up to 390 jobs over 10 years and will generate 120 million board feet of saw timber and biofuels. The Selway-Middle Fork Project includes restoration of 1.4 million acres of national forest, benefiting wildlife, timber and people alike. The project has already brought $19 million into the basin and is projected to bring in $80 million over time.

But the project does more than provide timber: It also addresses noxious weeds, road upgrades as well as road removal to improve water quality and spawning streams, and uses logging, thinning and controlled fire to improve browse and other habitat for big game. This is just one of 17 projects where the CBC and the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest are collaborating.

The CBC also recommends some of the most special places in the Clearwater to stay as they are: remote and natural. These special areas include the Great Burn/Hoodoo area; adding land around Sneakfoot Meadows and White Sand Creek to the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and the Clearwater Basin portions of the Mallard-Larkin.

Special Management Areas are recommended for West Meadow Creek and Cayuse Creek. In addition, the following waters are recommended for wild-and-scenic-river status: Fish Creek; Hungery Creek ; Meadow Creek; Cayuse Creek; and the Little North Fork of the Clearwater. The North Fork of the Clearwater is recommended to be removed from eligibility for any new mining claims and suctioning dredge mining above Dworshak Reservoir.

In addition, national efforts to secure stable, permanent funding for rural counties with large tracts of public land in them has been and will continue to be a focus for CBC.

Collaboration takes time, and is often challenging. We all love our national forests and feel strongly about them! In the end, the best way forward is to engage all people with an interest in the land, neighbor to neighbor, and unify support. Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has participated in the CBC since its inception and we intend to stay engaged to be sure that the recommendations become reality on the ground. We applaud the efforts of all the CBC members and thank them for their time and commitment to making our part of Idaho a better place to live, work and recreate.

Derrick Reeves, of Deary, is theNorth Idaho chairman of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. Holly Endersby, of Pollock, is the group’s conservation director.

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