Editor’s note: This posting was authored by Pat Ford. Many years ago, Pat served as the executive director of ICL. Most recently, he was the executive director for Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition. Pat lives in Boise, Idaho, and periodically contributes to the ICL blog.
I propose a list.
In the 1980s, Idaho conservation folks assembled a statewide list, with boundaries, of U.S. Forest Service areas we thought should stay wild. Spurred by a Forest Service assessment of roadless areas nationwide, the list evolved into an unofficial plan of work for those who assembled it and the many more who have joined in the work since.
Some of us were wrong then to hope or expect the list would help add lots more national forest land in Idaho to the National Wilderness Preservation System. But I don’t think we were wrong to develop the list. It helped frame and spur a lot of work that has contributed to keeping most of that land wild or nearly wild. It built communities of friends, organizations and campaigns from which grew much of the Idaho conservation of today. It helped build the aspiration for, and the step-by-step making of, unified Idaho conservation in a state that does not geographically lend itself to unity. And it sparked a lot of discovery.
Our ideal 490,000-acre boundary of a Boulder-White Clouds wilderness was created as part of the list. The road from that to the new Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness was long, stuttering and short of our early hopes, but it exists.
With that model in mind, I suggest we need now a similar list of damaged lands and waters in Idaho that should be restored.
This will be a more complex list. It will need to employ more criteria, more science, more scales, and probably involve more people in more parts of Idaho. It should not stick just to public lands, and will not be static. It will have to deal, for each place, with two questions: restored to what, and how? I expect our ways and means of using it will be more carefully considered than was the case for our wild lands list.
Think of it as part of a long-term strategy to weather through climate change in Idaho, or as a step in living more durably and lightly in Idaho for our next 15 to 50 years.
I can start with two easy nominations: the lower Snake River in Idaho and eastern Washington (some places on the list will cross state borders), and the Thousand Springs on the Snake near Hagerman. For a harder nomination on several counts, consider the poison-filled Brownlee Reservoir on the Snake River when hydro dams-sooner than we think-become obsolete.
We have a pretty good, place-based idea of what the wild land protection agenda is in Idaho. What is the restoration agenda?
– Pat Ford