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Moving Beyond Hazardous Fuels Reduction: Unique Collaboration Approaches in Idaho
Approximately 87 percent of the Payette National Forest is a continuous landscape of low- to mid-elevation forest, an ideal home for about 300 wildlife species, including elk, deer, moose, black bear, mountain lion, wolverines, and fishers. The Weiser-Little Salmon Headwaters Collaborative Landscape Restoration Project is working to increase economic activity through biomass utilization, forestry, and natural resource jobs. Approximately 10,000 green tons of biomass chips and 50,000 CCF of sawtimber will be produced annually across the 500,000-acre project area, of which approximately 190,000 acres are scheduled to be treated.
Summary of Action and Outcome
Collaboration with local mills and the improvement of road and fishery infrastructure have been unique approaches that have gone beyond hazardous fuel reduction. Ecosystem health has been improved by these efforts, as have local socioeconomic factors.
Congress authorized appropriation of up to $40M annually for Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) project implementation and monitoring to cover up to 50 percent of these costs, with no more than $4M going to any one project. The Forest Service funding shown here is the lifelong request for CFLRP funding. Forest Service and partner match funds, as well as goods for services through stewardship contracts, are leveraged to cover the remaining costs of the projects. Total annual expenditures are given in project annual reports.
All CFLRP projects were selected by a Federal Advisory Committee. Details on project proposals can be found here.
For up-to-date project information, see the annual reports on the “Results” page of the USFS CFLRP website.
The Payette Forest Coalition (PFC) has established a Monitoring Committee that is charged with gathering information on implementation and post-project trends and results. The Monitoring Committee is strongly connected to Payette National Forest resource specialists, who have provided periodic updates on monitoring that the Forest is conducting, including results. The Monitoring Committee periodically summarizes results and communicates those to the large PFC.
A combination of implementation and effectiveness monitoring is being used to: (1) ensure restoration activities are implemented as described, (2) provide feedback to project planning throughout the CFLRP landscape in an adaptive management framework, and (3) verify the effectiveness of restoration actions for resource areas of concern. In response to monitoring objectives (1) and (2), the Forest and the PFC participated in a series of field trips to review implementation of various activities, such as road decommissioning and timber harvest. In response to objective (3), the Forest continued the fourth year of monitoring, focused on how well projects restore low-elevation ponderosa pine forests and their associated wildlife species, specifically white-headed woodpeckers (a sensitive species) and Northern Idaho ground squirrels (a threatened species). Monitoring also focused on how effective the Forest is at restoring watershed conditions and habitat for the threatened bull trout.
A key component of the program is collaboration with communities, elected officials, timber industry, conservation groups, recreation advocates, state agencies, tribes, and other interested parties.
Through our recent community-based collaborative partnerships, we are working together to actively manage the Forest—not only for economic values, but also for clean water, wildlife habitat, grazing, road management, fire response, mineral extraction, and recreational opportunities.
The largest unexpected challenge to our CFLRP project for the year 2015 was litigation on our most recent decision, the Lost Creek-Boulder Creek (LCBC) project. The LCBC project is approximately 80,000 acres and includes activities in every resource area (e.g., hydrology, fisheries, wildlife, fire/fuels, timber, engineering, etc.) that the Forest is depending on for the next three to ten years of implementation and accomplishment(s). The Record of Decision for the LCBC project was signed in September of 2014. The original complaint was filed in June 2015 and answered August 2015. An amended complaint was then filed in August 2015, and a response to the amended complaint was received in September 2015. While the Forest is facing other challenges with funding and workforce capacity in order to meet some of the targets (e.g., timber volume sold), the primary reason that our accomplishments is not consistent with our project proposal, previously reported planned accomplishments, and Workplan is that the Forest did not award any of our stewardship contracts.
Participation by the diverse members of the Payette Forest Coalition in designing and monitoring the CFLRP projects has led to increased support of the projects. Coalition participants are connected to many others in their parent organizations and in the community. Their participation with projects and the in-depth understanding they are gaining about landscape conditions and restoration approaches brings broader community understanding and support. The PFC intervened on the Forest’s behalf in the Lost Creek-Boulder Creek project litigation, and this broad support clearly had influence in the favorable ruling from the court.