As of Tuesday, March 13, 2018
For Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests supervisor Cheryl Probert, the ongoing Forest Plan Revision has involved more than 70 meetings, including meetings with a Clearwater Basin Collaborative subcommittee, visits to county commissions and stakeholder meetings – including eight with Friends of the Clearwater, she said Monday, March 12.
“It’s an attempt to have the public to be part of alternative development,” she explained. “We usually do that internally, but we’re trying to get folks to help us define the range of alternatives we’re going to analyze in the environmental impact statement.”
A draft EIS is anticipated this fall, or by early winter, she said.
“What we have seen is an intense interest in how we are proposing to manage the forest for the next 20 or 30 years,” Probert said. “And that is great, having the level of engagement we’ve had.
Many of those participating have been participating for many years – Probert’s planning team has been at it since 2014 – but new organizations are coming to the table. Probert highlighted a local interest in mining – its history, culture and economic benefit – which is a type of group she said she hasn’t seen anywhere else.
“It’s unique from what I’ve heard in my years of work in the Forest Service,” she said.
She said she’s having to dispel myths about what the process can and can’t do – and she reiterated that the Forest Service doesn’t designate Wilderness or Wild and Scenic Rivers.
“We recommend wilderness and we can determine suitability for Wild and Scenic Rivers, but only Congress decides on those,” she said. “Within it, there’s a very prescribed process for how we recommend wilderness or determine Wild and Scenic River eligibility and suitability. I have to follow that process and we don’t have an option…to do it some different manner.”
“We’ve been at it for a long time,” she said, “and people have stuck with us being engaged. … While under the new planning rule, we are doing things a whole lot quicker. That said, we’re two years out from a decision.”
Both Idaho and Clearwater counties have put forward natural resource plans of their own. Probert said that although the Forest Service can’t simply adopt what the local governments have advanced, the specifics the counties have provided have been useful information.
“They’re both really good documents,” she said. “It’s a good way for us to see how the county would like us to manage the resources and that’s something we have to consider – and we are considering them.”