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Stakeholders striving to improve forest health

by Brandon Roberts & Western News
| November 24, 2008 11:00 PM

In the realm of forest management, people from all walks of life are in stride to improve forest health.

The Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition convened last Thursday and 38 members discussed prescriptions for a healthy and marketable forest. 

Membership in the Stakeholders is a wide cross-section of the Lincoln County community – foresters, rangers, loggers and conservationists all discussing the future of the Kootenai National Forest by incorporating best management and adaptive practices.

“A lot of future decisions are going to be made in groups like this,” county forester and member Ed Levert said.

Levert keyed in on the importance of similar levels of knowledge between agencies and individuals. He also said the coordinated approach taken by the Stakeholders is an attribute to its success. 

He noted that a downside to active management is that it can be more difficult to schedule outputs because of the tedious bureaucratic process to implement management on a national forest.

County commissioner and member John Konzen believes the Stakeholders “keep people engaged” by being “result oriented” and maintaining movement.

Initially the Stakeholders had a narrow focus, looking at the wildland-urban interface – defined simplistically as a two-mile perimeter between development and forest.

Recent discussions however, have management proposals extending beyond the WUI.

Mike Petersen, Stakeholder member and executive director of the Lands Council, said the move is “an important step” and a “commitment to working outside the WUI.”

Robyn King is a member and active on the Forest Restoration Committee. She said the committee is looking where active management should include more than the WUI.

She believes mapping of management areas could improve proposal success.

“There is a willingness and excitement to manage lands, not just the WUI,” King said.

Konzen supplemented that by saying “We have to look at the landscape as a whole.”

Petersen added that the Stakeholders have a “real potential to do things more efficiently.”

Petersen and the Lands Council have had successful litigations against past KNF proposals. In an effort to further streamline the proposal process, Petersen and Levert presented a guideline for proposals that would not be caught up in litigation from groups like the Lands Council.

The guideline brought reaction from the timber industry, but they were reminded that it is just a “skeleton” handed out as a preliminary look, nothing final.

Levert called the guideline an “opportunity to resolve issues brought up in appeal.”

The Stakeholders have Forest Service representatives from each KNF district. The newest is Lee Kramer with the Cabinet View district located in Trout Creek.

After spending two years debating bylaws, an attempted coalition in the southern-most district has some parties looking to the Stakeholders because of its successes.

County commissioner and member Marianne Roose said the Stakeholders’ success relies on “people to come to the table with an open mind, looking for solutions and respectful to make collaborative efforts work.”