Thursday, February 23, 2012

Born out of Gridlock

There’s a popular old saying you doubtless know well: Great minds think alike.

The problem is
, it’s often the opposite: People—even those with great minds—can see issues very differently.

In the Clearwater region of central Idaho, the story has focused on differences. Big differences.

The timber wars. Environmentalists versus loggers. Endangered species listings. Decline of elk herds. Wilderness. Off-road vehicles. Fire. Clearcuts.

For decades, these issues and others have resulted in lawsuits, name calling and rancor.
The results? National forests languish because no one can agree on management actions. The forests suffer, as do the people and wildlife who need them.

In the end, nobody wins.

The Clearwater Basin Collaborative charts a different course. The Nature Conservancy joins other conservation groups, the forest products industry, the Nez Perce Tribe, recreational enthusiasts and agencies to develop collaborative solutions.

It’s a different model: Great minds think together.

Sitting at the table, the coalition addresses everything from forest management to wilderness designation. Do members always agree? Absolutely not. But they do listen, and work together to come up with solutions.

There are always those who say this won’t work, that compromise only weakens solutions. But what has the fighting really accomplished? For too long, the only voices being heard were the loudest and most strident.

“The Clearwater Basin Collaborative was born out of gridlock,” says Alex Irby, a member of the collaborative representing off-road vehicle recreation. “We started with a facilitator to get us over the tough hurdles. Today, we’ve become so accustomed to working together that we have group members who respect each, who work together to find solutions out of gridlock.”

Each member of the collaborative brings a different perspective. The Nature Conservancy recognizes the Clearwater for its large, intact forests, for its importance to wildlife, for its clean waters and wild rivers. Our approach has long been to meet human needs while achieving our mission of biodiversity conservation.

The Clearwater Basin Collaborative scored its first major victory by receiving funding from the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Act (CLFRA), having been ranked the third highest forest collaborative program nationally.

The funding allows for prescribed fire, non-native weed control, trail maintenance and pre-commercial thinning—providing much needed management that contributes to the forest health of the region.

Working and listening can shape a new future for the Clearwater. Check out the Clearwater Basin Collaborative’s web site for more information on the issues this coalition is addressing.—Matt Miller

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