Collaboration Leads to Forest  Restoration V3

Collaboration Leads to Forest Restoration V3

Hi. I’m Michelle, and an
Idahoan that has a love for the great outdoor opportunities
that exist in our state. Recently, I’ve learned
that something different is happening here in the
Payette National Forest. For the past five years,
the forest has been a part of the Collaborative Forest
Landscape Restoration Program, and forest restoration
work is in full swing within these ecosystems. An important part of this program is the collaborative process that the Payette Forest
Coalition is a key player in. The Payette Forest Coalition
is an independent group of interested members of the public that represent all interests
in land stewardship. For these projects, the
Payette National Forest and Payette Forest Coalition came together to increase the scale and pace of forest restoration projects, improve communication and trust, and understand values and needs
of various interest groups. These projects that bring
the interest of all parties to the table have promoted economic growth and improved forest and watershed health. They have enhanced fish
and wildlife habitat through vegetation
thinning, road improvements, riparian enhancements,
invasive species management, and fuels treatment. Today, the Payette National Forest is actively managing 130,000 acres within the Mill Creek-Council Mountain and Lost Creek-Boulder Creek watersheds north of Council, Idaho. In addition, they are
working on 50,000 more acres in the Weiser River watershed. The goal of the forest
service is to redevelop ecologically sound systems and watersheds that function naturally and have openings and vegetation patterns that are somewhat similar to the past, when
fire played a dominant role. Each project is helping to
improve watershed health by reducing road sediment, add or replace road culverts
with open bottom arches to allow easy fish passage, and reduce dense vegetation
that pose fire risks. Much of the Payette National Forest is within a fire-adapted ecosystem, meaning historically,
frequent, lower-intensity fires reduced fuel that created
natural diversity, such as forest openings, meadows, and the desirable animal habitat. The coalition advocates prescribed fire combined with timber projects
at a landscape level. That management approach changes forest vegetation conditions
so they are more resilient to wildfire while providing
economic and social benefits. After mechanical vegetation removal, adding fire under a controlled environment mimics the historic fire role. Each year, forest personnel
use prescribed fire on thousands of acres,
following vegetation reduction from timber sales. We go out and look at
an area that we visited prior to treatment, and we saw how dense and overgrown it was, and then we go back
out after veg treatment and look at it again and
day oh, now we understand how the firefighters would
be able to get in here and fight a fire successfully, and not have it blow up
and consume 100,000 acres. [Michelle] As a part of
their collaborative goals, projects have been developed that generate increased timber value and much needed good restoration work. I’ve always said that
timber is just an outcome of good restoration work. [Michelle] The Evergreen Saw Mill, near New Meadows, has
added a second shift, due largely to the Lost
Creek-Boulder Creek project, and frequently posts a help wanted sign. These projects have also
helped fill log yards from Meridian to Grangeville. It’s allowed us to increase shifts. It’s given me the more of the confidence that we can hire more people on, that we can grow the company, and I hope they keep just
doing these projects, ’cause every time you see these projects, it’s a win-win for everybody. The win-win comes by
thinning the overgrown forest, and by providing economic
stability to these mountain towns. The effort also focuses on road management and recreational opportunities, and those, too, can present
a challenging debate, but bringing people together
to talk about these issues produces an outcome that
reaps strong benefits. The forest service developed projects that reduced road impacts,
but maintain public access, emergency access regarding wildfire, and for future land stewardship projects. In a lot of places, their roads are redundant, also, so they’ll get a road
out of the stream bottom, and leave a road on the
ridge top or a mid slope, still keep access. [Michelle] The Lost Creek Watershed and Lost Valley Reservoir are very popular recreational areas. Recreation improvements were needed, and the collaborative effort brought people together
to make improvements. [Wendy] It was very important to include in that project some work to improve those dispersed campsites, to move a few sites away
from the immediate shore of the reservoir, to harden some sites so there’d be less erosion,
less resource damage, to put in some vault
toilets so we don’t have sanitation concerns up
there like we had before. It was not a pleasant place to be. The bottom line is
that collaboration works. Already, these accomplishments include 84,000 acres of fuel treatment, 132 miles of stream restoration, 90,000 acres of wildlife
habitat enhancement, 16 stream crossings improved
for aquatic organism passage, nearly 150,000 CCF of timber sold, enhanced and upgraded
recreational opportunities, and 10,000 acres of
noxious weed treatment. The status quo has changed. Forest restoration is taking place, such as this vegetation treatment and the use of prescribed fire. The collaborative process has also helped to effectively deal with
the litigation issues. When the Lost Creek-Boulder Creek project was challenged in court by
non-collaborative parties, the Payette Forest Coalition intervened on behalf of the forest service. The federal court cited
the strong collaborative and community support and
dismissed the lawsuit. The benefit is an increased pace and scale of landscape restoration. Project planning is now more efficient, and on the ground results are healthy, resilient, sustainable landscapes. [Mike] It’s just a
good way to do business, face to face. Everything that you’re
doing right now, okay? Exactly. [Mike] ‘Cause the more we talk, the more we realize we
have a lot in common in what we wanna see. We share a lot of the same values. It’s been very gratifying to see work get done on the ground in real time, so that our forests are healthier, they’re more resilient to wildfire, and in addition, we’re having
healthier wildlife habitat and fishing places, and also
better recreation opportunities for everyone, so it’s a lot of work, but it is working. All of us value our public lands and want to see these
incredible forested ecosystems survive for generations to come. Forest restoration has started
in these special places, like the Payette National Forest, and the collaborative process
is key to implementing positive results in the landscape. Collaboration brings our values together, and together, more and more forested lands are being proactively brought
back into healthy conditions. If you’re an interested Idahoan like me, learn more about the
collaborative process, and then pull up a chair to the table so that these significant accomplishments, through collaboration, can
continue into the future. (birds chirping)

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