As of Tuesday, December 22, 2015
The Clearwater Basin Collaborative’s years-in-the-making Clear Creek Integrated Restoration Project hit another milestone this week. Having survived review last summer, the project has been decided and is headed for implementation – meaning up to 85.2 million board feet of timber is expected to come out of the 44,000-acre project area in coming years, starting next summer. Project designs aim to increase elk habitat, and reduce the amount of sediment reaching Clear Creek from an area above Kooskia and east of Clearwater, east of Stites.
As the Free Press reported in February, the Clear Creek project is the first “big one” of many restoration projects the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests will be pursuing in the 1.4-million-acre Selway-Middle Fork Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) area.
“We are currently evaluating our program of work for the next year with respect to our post-fire activities,” Nez Perce-Clearwater forest supervisor Cheryl Probert noted in e-mail last Friday, Dec. 18. (Phones were out at the supervisor’s office in Kamiah most of last week.)
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Details can be found on clearwaterbasinco..., which lists participants including the Nez Perce Tribe, Idaho Forest Group, University of Idaho Clearwater Extension, Idaho Conservation League, PLAY (an off-highway vehicle recreation club), Idaho and Clearwater county governments, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Trout Unlimited, and others. Listed as liaisons and advisors are functionaries with the offices of senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, Rep. Raul Labrador, Gov. Butch Otter and the Forest Service. (These lists may not be current or complete, as the website still lists Rick Brazell as Nez Perce-Clearwater forest supervisor; Probert stepped in for Brazell in January.)
Details on the Clear Creek Integrated Restoration Project are online at the Forest Service’s project page at http://www.fs.fed....
Probert said work on the Clear Creek project can begin as soon as the snow melts, but will “depend on environmental conditions, workloads, and, for timber sales, market conditions.
The first timber sale from the project will be the “Lost Mule” sale, a stewardship project slated to be sold in the summer or next fall, “depending on our salvage program, workload and markets,” Probert said.
Road improvements, reconditioning and decommissioning, and prescribed burning will be on “different time frames,” she said.
In announcing the decision, the combined forests highlighted that it authorizes the following: regeneration harvest on 4,156 acres, commercial thin on 4,220 acres, 331 acres of improvement harvest, 1,371 acres of prescribed burning, 1,887 acres of pre-commercial thinning and 41 acres of grassland restoration. Other major activities authorized by the decision include 120 miles of system road reconstruction, including the replacement of 77 undersized culverts, construction of 36 miles of temporary road, and decommissioning of more than 13 miles of road.
Probert noted that last season’s fires “affected a significant portion of the CFLR area.”
“We have had teams out in the field evaluating fire effects and we are currently discussing our large-scale restoration needs based on the post-fire landscape,” she said.
The combined forests are considering future restoration work in the Horse Creek and Selway Face areas, Probert added, “some of which were burned in the Wash Fire. We are in the very preliminary stages of looking at the restoration needs out on the landscape.”
When the Free Press and Probert finally connected by telephone late last Friday afternoon, Probert said, “This is a project we’re really excited about implementing, because it has a lot of different aspects, with watershed improvements and road improvements and veg restoration and aquatic restoration. It has been a lot of collaboration in the development of the project.”
“What sets this apart from other projects is the size and scope of the project, the scale we’re working on,” Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests Selway-Middle Fork CFLR coordinator Mike Ward said Friday. “It’s pretty ambitious. We’re trying to accomplish everything in one planning effort, instead of breaking it out into separate projects that would take many years to plan. The collaborative development is also something unique with this one.”
The CBC – a public organization in which many groups with interests in how Clearwater Basin public lands are managed – has met regularly for years. The meetings have allowed the combined forests to “listen to a lot of the in-depth discussions about how different groups and different stakeholders value the resources,” Probert said. “We use that deeper understanding of our stakeholders in how I think through decisions on other projects. There’s folks that aren’t involved in the collaborative that are equally as valuable in that. But the collaborative is helping us get to better decisions…on how we ought to be managing the resources.”