Giant ecosystem plan completed - Forest Service, BLM spent nine years on four-state project

Associated Press
The Spokesman-Review


BOISE, IDAHO_ After nine years of work, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management on Wednesday announced the completion of the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management plan to govern 64 million acres of federal ground across four states.

The $40 million project will coordinate management of federal land in Eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, Idaho and western Montana.

The project addressed the issues of wildfires, noxious weeds, protection and restoration of fish and wildlife, and the socio-economic effects of federal land management decisions on the public.

"I am pleased to see the completion of this project in a manner that will allow the science to be used in decisions made at the local level, by those most affected by land-use decisions on our federal lands," Gov. Dirk Kempthorne said.

Kempthorne said the July 2000 four-governor agreement on salmon recovery noted the interior Columbia River Basin needs a balanced strategy that can provide for stable and predictable multiple-use management on federal lands while permitting needed flexibility, particularly on private lands.

"The existence of such a strategy is long overdue," he said.

In July 1993, President Clinton directed the Forest Service to develop a "scientifically sound and ecosystem-based strategy" for management of national forests in eastern Oregon and Washington.

The project attracted more than 83,000 public comments on its draft environmental impact statements.

The final statement released in December 2000 suggested lighting prescribed fires, limiting grazing and eliminating roads to protect old forests, sagebrush, endangered salmon and a host of troubled species.


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