By Rialin Flores — Legislative Associate
For the last four years, some Idaho politicians have been plotting to “dispose” of our public lands.
They argue that turning our lands over to the states and corporations is the only way to boost timber production in a state that has a lot of trees.
There is a problem. The plan would sever Idahoans from the lands that define them as Idahoans. Public lands are the essence of Idaho and the West and any ploys to “dispose” of those lands are reckless and dangerous.
Fortunately, there’s a much better way: cooperation and collaboration.
A group of stakeholders tour the Williams Creek Project area in October. The temporary roads will be decommissioned after to protect watersheds.
Recently, I went on a tour of a timber sale in central Idaho that is an excellent example of collaboration.
The Williams Creek Project — located south of Smith’s Ferry west of State Highway 55 on the Boise National Forest — began in 2014 when Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter submitted a request to designate landscape-scale treatment areas on National Forests that are at risk of insect and disease mortality.
In the request, Otter said the area was selected through the cooperation of “Forest Supervisors and their staff…local collaborative groups, resource committees or local governments and citizens.”
The project will treat 1,600 forested acres to improve wildlife habitat, reduce the threat of disease and promote the growth of ponderosa pine and western larch. In the process, it will produce 11.5 million board feet of wood.
Road constructed into the area will be decommissioned after the acreage has been harvested to reduce sedimentation and protect watersheds.
Projects like this require a lot of work, planning, and compromise within a diverse range of stakeholders. It’s not easy, but it’s effective and it’s working.
The best part is all this work can be done without the fear or threat of losing our public lands to misguided politicians.
I understand that some people will find it a lot more exciting to occupy a wildlife refuge or rail against the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management than to do the hard, tedious work of actual land management. But it’s time we put our efforts into cooperation and collaboration while we abandon bluster and braggadocio.
Our public lands are precious to us as Americans, as Westerners and as Idahoans. We need to work together in a constructive way to pass them onto future generations, decades and even centuries down the road. The model for that outcome is in front of us. All we must do now is embrace it.