February 19, 2016

Further Information:
Rick Tholen 208.863.5234
Society of American Foresters
Will Whelan 208.350.2202
The Nature Conservancy

Idaho Forest Restoration Partnership 6th Annual Conference Will Be Largest Ever

(BOISE) – The 6th annual meeting of the Idaho Forest Restoration Partnership will occur at the Riverside Hotel in Garden City, Idaho, on February 24 and 25, 2016.  The conference, entitled "Facing the Fire:  New Tools and Science for Forest Restoration," will focus on how conservationists, local leaders, industry, and other stakeholders are working together to improve the health of national forests in Idaho.  Last year’s especially severe fire season underscores the importance of their efforts to make forests and communities more resilient to large wildfires.  It will be its largest gathering ever with more than 130 participants.

"The Idaho Forest Restoration Partnership (IFRP) was formed to help strengthen collaborative forest restoration efforts across Idaho," says partner Rick Tholen with the Society of American Foresters.  "This network exists to help Idaho forest collaborative groups connect with each other and get the information and resources they need to succeed."

IFRP formed in 2010 to connect, inform, and support collaborative groups working to restore the resilience of Idaho forests. IFRP’s group members include the Society of American Foresters, Trout Unlimited, Idaho Conservation League, Woody Biomass Utilization Network, and The Nature Conservancy.  Currently there are nine local forest-based collaborative efforts across Idaho with participants from a variety of interests including forest industry, conservation, recreation, local government and Native American tribes.

"Collaborative groups seek forest management projects that benefit forest ecology, local  economies, and community safety," said Will Whelan of the Nature Conservancy.  "The lasting value of these groups may ultimately be determined by whether they can serve as a proving ground for restoration forest management that earns broad public support and can be applied at larger scales in the future."

"The conference serves as the annual reunion for a diverse set of people who might at first glance be viewed as foes rather than colleagues.  It is not uncommon to see a conservationist sitting down for lunch with a timber industry representative, a county commissioner and a wildlife manager.  That doesn’t mean we always agree, but we are finding ways to work together to advance all of our interests," said John Robison of the Idaho Conservation League.  "The IFRP’s annual event continues to extend its reach.  In fact, the conference sold out, was expanded and filled up again.  The number of participating collaboratives is also a record – with nine local groups ranging from Island Park to Bonners Ferry."

This year’s conference takes place in the midst of a contentious debate about the future of the nation’s public lands," noted Tholen.  "IFRP’s annual conference is a place where divisive political debates are set aside and people focus on practical solutions that can be carried out now to improve Idaho’s national forests."

The IFRP and local collaboration efforts are all unique, but generally share support of four principles in a common vision for our forests:

1. In Idaho’s forests, strategic forest restoration is essential to address the current

challenges posed by uncharacteristic wildfire, insects, disease and climate change.

2. Active management is needed in some areas of public forests to restore their resiliency.

3. A healthy forest industry is an important and necessary part of a restoration strategy to offset restoration costs and to provide jobs and economic stability in rural communities throughout Idaho.

4. Collaborative groups can provide useful advice and recommendations on forest restoration projects, through cooperation between citizens, including interest groups, elected officials, and pubic land managers

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