N. Idaho group reaches consensus on forest

LEWISTON, Idaho — An advisory collaboration of environmentalists, lumber companies, the Nez Perce Tribe and local and state officials has reached an agreement intended to restore wildlife habitat and protect pristine areas while also allowing economic activities such as logging in the Clearwater Basin in northern Idaho.

The Lewiston Tribune reported that the Clearwater Basin Collaborative announced the agreement on Wednesday.

“We believe this balanced package is the blueprint for breaking the gridlock that has paralyzed land management actions in the past,” said Alex Irby of Orofino, a co-chairman of the group.

The agreement proposes new wilderness and wild and scenic river designations, an increase in timber harvest from areas with roads, and economic development and financial support for timber-dependent counties.

Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho has agreed to push legislation stemming from ideas generated by the collaborative. New wilderness areas would need congressional approval.

However, parts of the agreement could be accomplished administratively by the U.S. Forest Service, such as increased timber harvest.

Group members also agreed to continue working with the Forest Service on future logging and restoration plans, looking for areas where they believe logging is appropriate.

The diverse nature of the group means environmentalists support some logging while some county commissioners who dislike restrictions on public lands support new wilderness areas.

“We have decided we need one another to get what we want and we decided since we are going to be in the same boat, we just as well all row in the same direction,” said Don Ebert, chairman of the Clearwater County Commission.

“You can’t pull any one of these out on their own,” said Brad Brooks of the Wilderness Society. “The key here is this only works if it’s all together.”

The collaborative formed in 2008 as a way to make progress on forest issues after years of wrangling and legal scuffles between competing interests.

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