I know-there is no faster way to lose your interest in this blog than to mention the word planning. But if you value public lands, I urge you to read on. Someone once told me “If you’re not at the table, then you are on the menu.”
Local public lands management planning efforts across Idaho could affect your favorite trail, camping area, hunting spot or fishing hole. ICL’s staff invests considerable amounts of time and energy on these processes because it’s through them that we can achieve balanced multiple-use, protection of resources and healthy ecosystems across our public lands. Here are some priorities for the coming year.
North Idaho: Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest
After a couple of false starts, efforts are underway on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest to revise forest management plans that date back to the late 1980s. These plans are about much more than timber. This is where the U.S. Forest Service can recommend new wilderness areas and wild and scenic rivers. I emphasize can because the agency is not obligated to recommend new wilderness areas or wild and scenic rivers. Any new proposals for protected areas and rivers will depend on what the public has to say about these ideas.
The Forest Service can also decide what protections to include for fish and wildlife habitat, old growth forests, recreational infrastructure, and just about anything you might see on your national forests.
Revision of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Plan is one of our North Idaho field office’s top public lands priorities in the coming year. ICL is one of the only Idaho-based conservation groups at the table. I am honored to represent ICL and its members as I work to protect the wilderness, forests, fish, wildlife and recreational opportunities of the Clearwater Basin. Look for more information from me in the near future about this topic and how to get involved.
Central and Eastern Idaho: Salmon-Challis Country
The Salmon-Challis National Forest also has forest plans that date back nearly 40 years. Salmon-Challis country is the heart of Idaho, important for the people who live nearby and for folks all across the Gem State. The Salmon-Challis offers world-class wildlife, clean water and outdoor recreation opportunities. At the same time, the Salmon-Challis has natural resources that help drive local jobs and make Idaho stronger. This vast landscape includes iconic places such as the Pioneers Mountains, Borah Peak, the Lemhis, the Pahsimeroi Valley and the Wild and Scenic Salmon River.
In January, the Salmon-Challis National Forest kicked off their plan revision process. Following just shortly behind the national forest, the BLM Salmon, Challis, and Upper Snake field offices will also revise management plans. Collectively, these revisions provide an opportunity to plan across agency boundaries and actually look at landscape-level issues across more than 7 million acres of public lands. Once finished, this will be the framework that determines how the area is taken care of for the next 20-plus years.
For years, the Idaho Conservation League has participated in the Lemhi Forest Restoration Group, a Salmon-based collaborative that has achieved great strides in multiple-use management and building relationships with agency staff and other stakeholders in the area. Moving forward, our staff will continue to represent ICL’s values in collaborative forums and discussions about the national forest and BLM planning process. We look forward to helping ICL’s members speak up and take action for the places they care most about across this landscape.
South Idaho: Travel Plans and More
In southern Idaho, ICL is involved in several ongoing BLM planning efforts. These include remote backcountry areas such as Owyhee Canyonlands East and West, front-country recreational areas such as Grand View, and important conservation areas such as the western and southern portions of the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.
For some of the BLM planning efforts, we are also submitting comments as part of the Owyhee Initiative-an ongoing collaborative of landowners, ranchers, conservation organizations, and recreation groups working together to promote the ecologic and economic health within Owyhee County.
Everyone agreed on the importance of developing and implementing travel plans. The travel plans are to include a multiple-use trail system that provides a wide range of recreational opportunities and experiences for all users. This intent was captured in the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (OPLMA) which requires that the BLM complete a travel management plan for public land in Owyhee County.
Speak Up for Idaho’s Public Lands Today
Look for more information from ICL in the near future about how to get involved in the projects described in this blog. In the meantime, please ask our congressional representatives to keep public lands in public hands.
Dani Mazzotta, Central Idaho director, and John Robison, public lands director contributed to this blog.