Idaho set for pilot public land management project

Capital Press Staff Writer

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Legislation is before the U.S. House agriculture and resources committees that allows Idaho to test one of five proposed pilot projects (all in Idaho) to manage public lands and end gridlock in the state.

House Resolution 835 – the Clearwater Basin Project Act – calls for establishing a Clearwater Advisory Panel to work with the U.S. Forest Service.

The panel would recommend stewardship activities to implement within the basin over a five-year period, subject to forest supervisor approval, said Rep. Butch Otter, R-Idaho.

The act will promote further discussion of management options as policy makers work to keep forests healthy, and avoid putting resources, jobs, communities and lives at risk, Otter said.

The bill complements President Bush's Healthy Forests Initiative, he said.

HR835 is co-sponsored by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho. It was first introduced in Congress late last year, too late for lawmakers to act on it in a Democratic Congress, said Mark Warbis, Otter’s spokesman. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, introduced companion legislation, Senate Bill 433, in the Senate on Feb. 25.

The Clearwater panel will be a local advisory group, assigned to work with the Forest Service in a streamlined effort to gain consensus on proposed management efforts and implement them on the ground, said Robert Maynard, Boise attorney.

The panel is one of five proposed new approaches for managing public lands in Idaho, developed by the Federal Land Task Force, convened in 1996 by the Idaho State Land Board.

The task force sought alternative, innovative ways to manage federal lands in Idaho, said Maynard, a consultant with the group.

“The current framework for managing federal lands in Idaho is not working, thanks to regulatory and legal gridlock,” Maynard said. “Local communities, the general health of the land, and all users, from recreationists to natural resource industries are being hurt.

“The federal agencies have trouble getting anything done in any kind of efficient manner,” he added.

The five recommended projects were the Clearwater Basin Project, the Central Idaho Ecosystem Trust, Priest Lake Basin Cooperative, St. Joe Ecosystem Stewardship Project and Twin Falls/Cassia Resource Enhancement Trust.

All five will require federal legislation before they can proceed. The Clearwater project is the first one to go before Congress, Maynard said.

The proposed projects are discussed in a December, 2000, report to the State Land Board, which consists of Idaho's five top state elected officials.

Implementation of the pilot projects was endorsed by the State Legislature as well, Maynard said.

None of the pilot projects will elminate or avoid activities of some of the more controversial environmental organizations sometimes blamed for stopping management activity on federal lands, Maynard explained.

“We hope when a broad range of stakeholders work with the agency and develop strong consensus for an action, the impact of third party spoilers can at least be reduced,” Maynard said. “Judges are aware if someone participates or lies by the sidelines.”


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