Western Caucus Hearing Undermines Collaborative Initiatives in Idaho

Feb 28, 2012

America’s Wilderness is under siege from corporate polluters and its handful of allies

The Wilderness Society today challenged the objective and focus of the Western Caucus event, “Washington Obstacles to Prosperity and Property Rights in the West.”  The event focused on tired agendas that aim to undermine bedrock environmental laws and America’s recreation economy that thrives on protected laws.  The views and testimonies given reflect a minority of elected officials and stakeholders who would rather open our lands and waters to corporate polluters than save it for the American people to enjoy.

Several witnesses were from Idaho, yet in their divisive testimony, they ignored the fact that their state is the beneficiary of three federal efforts aimed at improving the health of the state’s national forests and helping local communities.  These projects are instrumental in helping former adversaries find common ground and workable solutions that make Idaho’s national forests a better place.

Last month the U.S. Forest Service announced Idaho will receive funding, totaling $5.7 million, for national forest restoration efforts.  Funded under the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP), the work in national forests will accomplish critical restoration objectives, including forest health and resilience and community safety.   The projects will stimulate local economies and increase forest related jobs.

The three projects are:
• Selway-Middle Fork Clearwater Project -- $3 million
• Weiser-Little Salmon Headwaters Project -- $2.4 million
• Kootenai Valley Resources Initiative -- $324,000

Craig Gehrke, Idaho regional director at The Wilderness Society, said “These are projects where locals chose not to listen to the tired fed-bashing rhetoric of the politicians and instead rolled up their sleeves and got to work developing real on the ground opportunities for forest management.”

Timber industry representatives, conservationists, local officials, sportsmen and others have worked tirelessly to find common ground that forms the foundation of these projects.  The U.S. Forest Service has been a key partner in these efforts and deserves a large part of the credit for their success.

And the results are already apparent.  On-the-ground collaboration has been a factor in both the Clearwater and Nez Perce National Forests exceeding their timber sale goals for FY11.  Local residents have attributed the success of the Clearwater Basin Collaborative and the CFLRP for the Selway-Middle Fork Clearwater for the increased timber harvesting.

America’s Wilderness is Under Siege from a select few members of Congress, and the witnesses echoed this dangerous rhetoric. Witnesses took aim at some of our most treasured lands, such as the Grand Canyon, preferring to have these lands managed by corporate polluters and irresponsible developers instead of the general public.

But citizens across the West are not buying what these opponents of environmental safeguards are selling. A recent bi-partisan poll from Colorado College showed that 78 percent of Western voters felt that “we can protect land and water and have a strong economy with good jobs at the same time, without having to choose one of the other.” Additionally, 66 percent of Western swing voters said that “environmental laws are important safeguards, rather than burdensome regulations.”