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County commissioner among panelists at Idaho collaborative conference

by John Blodgett Western News
| March 16, 2018 4:00 AM

A Lincoln County commissioner is among the panelists appearing next week at a two-day conference in Idaho that organizers say aims “to achieve a collaborative vision for the future of our public forests.”

Titled “Resilient Landscapes, Thriving Communities: Achieving a Collaborative Vision of the Future,” and taking place Tuesday and Wednesday at the Coeur d’Alene Resort, the conference was organized by the Montana Forest Collaboration Network and the Idaho Forest Restoration Partnership.

Commissioner Mark Peck will present Tuesday on “Shared Stewardship: How Partnerships Drive Positive Change,” alongside the Idaho and Montana state foresters and other experts.

People from Colorado, Washington and Oregon are also slated to present on various topics.

Peck said the primary purpose of the conference is to gather people who represent diverse interests and who can “actually get some stuff done on the ground” to share ideas among one another.

Peck hopes to bring back lessons to Lincoln County, where the management of resources including timber is a crucial concern since much of the county is comprised of National Forest lands and because “as a county government, that’s where our revenues need to come from.”

In particular, Peck holds up Idaho as a good model of managing natural resources, not least because the state’s leadership is more aligned than Montana’s.

“We’ve got a lot of really good things going in Montana, but we’re not real well coordinated politically,” he said. “On the local level we’ve got a very strong collaborative group (in the Kootenai Forest Stakeholder’s Coalition), but my bigger concern is on a statewide basis.”

In addition to collaboration, conference topics include restoring wildfire-scarred landscapes, integrating recreation and economic development goals, and telling a community’s story.

Still, Peck said the big push “is to really strengthen the collaborative process, (because) that’s where most of the forest reform legislation is going” — a factor underscored by a Tuesday presentation by Jeanne Higgins, the National Forest System Policy Reform Lead for the U.S. Forest Service based out of Washington, D.C.

Looking ahead, Peck said he’d like to see a “core group” of elected officials from across Montana, as well as congressional staffers and advisors, “sit down and really say, ‘How do we align better to get forest reform and make sure that we’re all chugging away on the same (page).’”

“I wish I could just focus on this,” Peck said. “I really do.”