The Proposal

Collaborative Joins with Forests to Develop Restoration Proposal

Selway River - Credit, US Forest Service

Selway River – Credit, US Forest Service

The Clearwater Basin Collaborative, Nez Perce and Clearwater National Forests, and other partners have produced a comprehensive restoration strategy which has been submitted for funding through the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program.  The proposal is a science based approach designed to
restore and maintain ecological conditions within the 1.4-million-acre Selway-Middle Fork ecosystem in Idaho.

The Selway-Middle Fork area was selected because the needs are great. The area is identified as a top priority for restoration in national, regional, state and county plans and a forest subbasin assessment.  If funded, critical restoration work can begin immediately. Mechanical fuel reduction treatments, road decommissioning, weed treatments, landscape burns and culvert replacements are already planned and  approved in accordance with National Environmental Policy Act procedures.  Additional collaborative
planning will be needed to complete the strategy.

Restoration activities will benefit both the land and local communities, providing job and contracting opportunities in an area that has been hard hit by the downturn in the woods products industry. The Selway-Middle Fork plan signifies a change in the way business is conducted in the Basin. It marks a departure
from traditional public involvement processes to collaboration, paving the way for a new era of cooperation.

Proposal Goals

  1. Protect communities, private lands and Wild and Scenic River corridors from uncharacteristic
    wildland fires.
  2. Re-establish and perpetuate landscapes that are diverse and resilient.
  3. Restore forest structure, function and ecologic processes that promote aquatic health.
  4. Restore forest structure, function and ecologic processes that promote habitat for big-game and
    other terrestrial species.
  5. Contain or eliminate noxious weeds.
  6. Promote landscape conditions that allow fire to function as the primary restoration agent.
  7. Contribute to the economy and sustainability of rural communities.

The Area

The Selway-Middle Fork area is massive —1.4 million acres, the majority of which are national forest system
lands.  The area is nationally renowned for its pristine water, anadromous and resident fisheries, big-game species and scenic vistas.

Included within the proposal area is the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, one of the first to be designated under the Wilderness Act of 1964, and one of the largest in the lower 48.  The area boasts the Middle Fork Clearwater Wild and Scenic Rivers system, and the O’Hara Research Natural Area, one of the largest
Research Natural Areas in the country.

Johnson Bar Fire, Kooskia, Idaho

Johnson Bar Fire, Kooskia, Idaho – Credit, US Forest Service

The area has a rich fire history including the first deployment of a smokejumper and the first Wilderness fire management program. Vegetation ranges from remnants of coastal species to dry Ponderosa pine forests. While some of the land has been intensely managed, there are large tracts of unmanaged, “wild” lands. Past management, fire suppression, the invasion of exotic species and increasing human settlement in the wildland urban interface have altered the landscape and threaten the unique ecological values of the area.

The People

This region is the traditional homeland of the Nez Perce Tribe. It was explored by Lewis and Clark. The discovery of gold in the 1860s triggered a large in-migration. Over the years, agriculture and the wood products industries have dominated the economy. Recreation is gaining as an important economic
component.

The recent downturn in the economy hit people and businesses hard. The region’s two largest counties—Idaho and Clearwater—have April 2010 unemployment rates of 11.1 and 16.7 percent respectively.  Unemployment has been as high as 19.8 percent. Economic challenges include net outmigration,
below-average economic growth and long-term decline in the wood products industry.

People in the Clearwater Basin have strong ties to public lands. They are a place to work, play and
renew. Many choose to live in the region because of a high quality of life associated with the vast expanse of
public lands.

The Proposal

  • Apply prescribed fire and mechanical treatments on the landscape in a way that emulates natural patterns.
  • Reduce fuels in the wildland urban interface.
  • Allow natural fire to restore the landscape where appropriate.
  • Improve and maintain forest composition and structure.
  • Improve wildlife habitat across summer, winter and transitional ranges.
  • Improve road drainage, decommission problem or unnecessary roads and replace
    culverts.
  • Treat noxious weeds and restore native vegetation.
  • Create jobs and promote emerging technologies such as biomass facilities.

The Benefits

Proposed management activities will:

  • Reduce the risk of high severity fire, especially in the wildland urban interface.
  • Minimize the potential scale and severity of wildfire, reducing firefighting costs.
  • Promote vegetation that is resilient to insects, disease and wildfire.
  • Improve water quality.
  • Improve conditions for big game species by stimulating growth of forage and promoting wildlife security.
  • Improve conditions for fish by improving passage and connectivity.
  • Reduce/eliminate non-native species and promote the growth of native species.
  • Enhance recreation opportunities for those who fish, hunt or view wildlife.
  • Promote opportunities for emerging technologies such as biomass facilities.
  • Improve trust between the Forest Service, the Collaborative, partners and others with an interest in Forest management.
  • Create jobs. It is estimated more than 380 full- and part-time jobs will be maintained and/or created through the ten-year plan.

Map

Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program Vicinity Map

Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program Vicinity Map