Clearwater Basin Collaborative

Protecting and Enhancing Idaho's Clearwater Basin

Issues and Preliminary Areas of Agreement

The Collaborative has identified preliminary areas of agreement that will guide its administrative and legislative efforts. These points represent beliefs and values that are shared across the diversity of interests on the Collaborative. They are considered as being equally important for the purposes of the Collaborative.

  • Ecological Values. Members unanimously agree on the value of anadromous fisheries and aquatic habitat, elk, and backcountry in the Clearwater Basin. Protecting these resources for the ecological, social and economic health of the Basin is a foundation of the Collaborative’s work.
  • Economies. There is a need to maintain existing economic opportunities and to diversify into new ones. The Collaborative recognizes that the Basin’s natural resources are fundamental to these activities, but must also be conserved for the future.
  • Restoration and Economic Development. Landscape restoration and workforce training to carry it out will be encouraged to support ecological and economic viability.
  • Timber Industry. A secure timber industry is critical to the economy of the Basin, and is needed for restoring the landscape.
  • Treaty Rights. The Collaborative recognizes the importance of the Nez Perce Tribe’s treaty rights within the Basin, and is committed to protection and enhancement of cultural values. Sacred sites, use patterns, subsistence values and relationships between people are essential to progress within the Basin.
  • Backcountry Values. Protection of unspoiled landscapes is crucial to the long term health of the Basin. The Clearwater Basin has millions of acres of pristine Inventoried Roadless Lands, and the group is committed to protecting the backcountry values that make these areas unique.
  • Recreation. The Clearwater Basin has enormous recreation value locally, regionally, and nationally. The Collaborative is committed to protecting the values and enhancing the experiences of all recreational users, and recognizes that recreation is vitally important to the Basin’s economic future.
  • County Infrastructures. Local counties serve the nation by providing infrastructure services that supporting public uses of national forests within their boundaries. Collaborative members believe counties should receive support for these services above what the federal government currently legislates. New solutions for county infrastructures are needed.

Working Subcommittees of the Collaborative

From the preliminary areas of agreement listed above, the Collaborative has organized four subcommittees charged with studying issues in depth and reporting back to the larger group. Members of each subcommittee represent a variety of interests across the membership of the Collaborative at large.  Because of this, each subcommittee’s work benefits from the opinions of many, resulting in stronger recommendations to the large group.  

  1. Forest Health and Functions Subcommittee works to develop ways to improve, restore and sustain forest and aquatic health in backcountry areas. Forests in the Clearwater Basin are in need of restoration to protect them from wildfire, insects and invasive species, and to re-establish landscape resiliency, diversity of age and species, and other healthy functions. The local timber industry can provide many services needed to meet restoration goals. The Forest Health and Function Subcommittee is drafting a comprehensive list of restoration needs and landscape-level principles for forest health. It is pursuing administrative and legislative options for advancing these needs. The Collaborative is operating as a resource for the Forest Service on selected projects planned for the Clearwater and Nez Perce forests. These projects appear on agency documents called Schedules of Proposed Actions (SOPAs). Collaborative members evaluate projects for their ecological, social and economic impacts in the interest of helping the agency ensure projects are balanced and acceptable to diverse public interests. This subcommittee is also leading the work in drafting a proposal for federal funding under the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-11). The law includes provisions for federal landscape restoration projects of 50,000+ acres. The Clearwater Basin region is a prime candidate for this funding. The subcommittee and its technical advisers have undertaken detailed analysis on areas needing restoration on this scale, and is seeking a local contractor to develop and prepare the proposal package. The subcommittee’s membership includes individuals from the conservation community, timber industry, and recreation interests.
  2. Land Allocation Subcommittee is studying a variety of potential legislative designations for landscapes, including those suitable for permanent  protection. The Land Allocation Subcommittee is tasked with studying social, ecological and economic costs and benefits of various federal land designations alternatives. These include National Recreation Areas, wilderness, Wild and Scenic Rivers and protection levels already outlined in the Idaho Roadless Rule. Inherent in these discussions are the values outlined above for the protection of treaty rights and cultural resources. Drawing on lessons from other collaborative projects such as the Owyhee Initiative, and on the collective expertise of Collaborative members, the subcommittee is thoroughly and thoughtfully examining all legislative alternatives. The cooperative nature of the Collaborative allows for honest interchange of views, and education of members on diverse issues. This subcommittee is comprised of members from the timber industry, recreation interests, the conservation community.
  3. Rural Economies Subcommittee is developing options for vibrant and sustainable economies. National forests in the Clearwater Basin have supported local economies for decades. Today, healthy forests and maintenance of living-wage jobs are both necessary for community and economic stability. The Rural Economies Subcommittee is working on a package of options to increase economic stability now and for the future. These options include diversification of the timber industry and development of the capacity of outdoor recreation. The two counties in the Clearwater Basin hold a preponderance of federal public land. Therefore, the subcommittee is also concerned with federal reimbursement of counties possessing these non-taxable land bases. The government has addressed economic needs of these counties historically through the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program and the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (P.L. 106-393 and P.L. 110-343), among other measures. While these programs have been helpful in the past, they are time-limited and do not fully address the Basin’s needs. The presence of so much federal land in Basin counties further means that county infrastructures can easily bear too much burden for law enforcement and search and rescue operations to users of these federal lands. The subcommittee and larger Collaborative group are studying options for legislation that would ensure Basin counties are duly supported for such services. The cooperative nature of the Collaborative supports innovative ideas that combine economic, social and ecological solutions for long-lasting security in the Clearwater Basin. The Rural Economies Subcommittee is made up of members from state, county, and tribal governments, the timber industry, and community development interests.
  4. Recreational Uses Subcommittee is developing options for quality recreational opportunities for all forest users which support communities and protect forest health. Recreation is an integral part of economic sustainability and quality of life in the Clearwater Basin. The region is also nationally known for its rich natural resources and recreational opportunities. These resources must also be preserved to protect the very qualities that makes them so valuable. The Recreational Uses Subcommittee is analyzing recreational and economic activities that will support counties in the Basin. Collaborative members have identified healthy elk and fish populations, access, and stewardship and conservation as key issues for the subcommittee to consider. For example, the two national forests in the region have an administrative backlog of trail and campsite maintenance needs that will require millions of dollars to remedy. The Collaborative can work with the Forest Service and other agencies to encourage adequate funding for such projects, which in turn would create jobs, enhance recreational opportunities, and help protect ecological resources. The subcommittee is also studying potential legislative provisions that would support recreation and economies in the Basin. Members of this subcommittee represent recreational interests and the conservation community.