How “collaboratives” work in Idaho

They work well, according to this article, and here’s probably an important reason why:

“The collaboratives advance the process by removing features that are sure to invite challenges and delays — like proposing new roads in a roadless area.”

My impression has been that it is easier to reach agreement on protecting undeveloped areas (or not) in both project plans and forest plans than it is to agree on conservation strategies for wildlife (which are the basis of a lot of litigation).  Maybe the former is more political, which lends itself to negotiations, and the other is more scientific and/or legal, which does not?  (Or maybe I’m imagining this difference.)   Spending money to restore damaged streams also seems to work as a bargaining (for wood) chip.

10 thoughts on “How “collaboratives” work in Idaho”

  1. Hi Jon:
    See my thesis. The only group around here that doesn’t collaborate is Gary McFarland of the Friends of the Clearwater. Indeed, groups that would have any interest in challenging are few and far in between. On the flip side, Brad Smith of ICL (up here in N. Idaho, anyway) is damn good at what he does. He fights ICL battles in the collaboration meetings and with informed and well researched comments that usually get the USFS to give ground without litigation. He also seems to maintain active and amiable relationships with USFS staff.

    That said, I do believe I remember a discussion on here about an Idaho case a few years back where FoC & Alliance brought an action against a collaboration. Essentially, the judge looked at the groups like ICL & NC who were sitting at the table and reasoned that Alliance had no standing b/c they weren’t. I lost track of the case on appeal. Matt would remember better that me, I’m sure.

    • I’ll add that Idaho is also unique in the fact that the Idaho Roadless Rule sets different standards than the rest of the country, thereby, forcing the groups to use different tactics — like challenging development into proscribed areas rather than hammering on the wildlife issues as you intuited.

      • A couple of thoughts on this article..

        First, even FS folks without collaboratives don’t propose roads in roadless areas because they’re not allowed- so that was kind of an odd statement. Unless the author meant roadless as kind of a generic thing and not related to Roadless Rules.

        It’s also kind of odd that Idaho’s use of Good Neighbor Authority is not mentioned, which I think helps the FS with timber sales..

        As to Jon’s question, my impression is that in general decisions that cover a lot of acres and activities, like a conservation strategy, would tend to be more controversial than those that don’t.

          • Eric, I didn’t put words in your mouth. I was quoting the article- the author seemed to just toss that off…
            I did know quite a bit about Idaho Roadless right after it was finalized because I had to write and review different comparisons of Idaho and Colorado Roadless Rules.

            I get that roads might be authorized in BCR or GFRA themes but a) I don’t know how many of these have actually been attempted and 2) and isn’t the Roadless Commission in some sense a collaborative group? They seem to be still active

            • Yes, apologies Sharon.
              I snapped that comment off after a too hasty read of your comment.
              As t the roadless group being collaborative — in theory yes. In practice no. We are talking about Idaho here. It’s no coincidence that Idaho just happened to be one of two States to take WJ Clinton up on his offer to write their own rules. It’s political. And that division is basically between ICL and timber interests (although TU has a commission member). And yeah, the timber interests attempt it with great regularity. It’s almost comical to watch it play out. Almost every major decision they make involves this topic. So, the USFS projects often contain an alternative to placate the timber interest commissioners, knowing the battle with ICL will take place behind the scenes and that they can throw it out depending upon the strength of ICL’s comments to the proposal. It’s a constant tug of war.

              • No harm, not ready to trade in my Roadless Geek card yet. But it wasn’t the Clinton Administration who did the State Petitions Rule, they did the Roadless Rule in a hurry at the end of their term- it was issued in the Federal Register on January 12 and on the 20th of January, President Bush was sworn in.
                If you think about these dynamics it is no wonder that there was pushback from the Bush administration. I think the State Roadless idea was Mark Rey’s and I sat in a meeting with him and D Governor Ritter about starting Colorado’s petition. I remember Mark finding it odd that at the time (2007?) the State Capitol where we met with Governor Ritter did not have metal detectors. In Colorado it was political but not partisan- the Colorado Rule went through D and R administrations at the Gov’s house and in DC. Oh well, that’s probably TMI.

  2. The article is encouraging, especially in that it is from the LA Times, but it also highlights some of the frustration some folks have with the collaborative planning process.

    * “collaboratives … helped cut the time needed to complete a forest restoration plan from four years to two.”

    That’s progress, but two years is a long time when management actions are needed to stave off fire and insects.

    * “The number of board feet of timber cut from the Payette and Idaho’s other national forests has almost doubled to 178 million since collaboratives got started.” And “Roughly 20% of the logs needed to manufacture the 1.2 billion board feet of lumber that the Idaho Forest Group produced this year comes from federal forests, double the amount five years ago.”

    That’s certainly positive. On the other hand, the 75% of forestland in Idaho that is federal provided just 13.6% of the state’s total harvest in 2016, while nearly 48% came from the 5% of the state’s forestland held by the forest-products industry (harvest figures from U. Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, Even with the work of collaboratives, the USFS’s harvest remains a fraction of the total.

  3. Here is an interesting paper on collaboration (in Oregon) that was just published:

    Maier, C. and J. B. Abrams (2018). “Navigating social forestry – A street-level perspective on National Forest management in the US Pacific Northwest.” Land Use Policy 70: 432-441.
    US forest policy changed dramatically during the 1990s and fundamentally altered National Forest management in the Pacific Northwest. Via the Northwest Forest Plan, the previous emphasis on timber production was replaced with a broader set of objectives and collaborative management approaches became increasingly important. Yet the legacies of past institutions, such as those related to budget structures and planning processes, continue to weigh on contemporary dynamics of policy implementation in the current ‘social forestry’ regime. The convoluted nature of the current forest governance system’s emergence raises the question of how it affects policy implementation at the local level. We rely on 35 qualitative interviews with various actors involved in public forest management on the Siuslaw and Willamette National Forests in Oregon to understand how multiple and contradictory policies, combined with local stakeholder involvement, influence management decisions. We find that forest management takes place in a vetocratic and neoliberal institutional setting: the implementation of projects is contingent upon getting past numerous veto players who, at the same time, increasingly take on tasks formerly assigned to government entities.


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