As the new Central Idaho Coordinator for BHA, my work has been full-throttle from the get go. Two substantial projects that will shape the character of public lands in Idaho are being initiated by the Salmon-Challis National Forest and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). While it seems the BLM is going to strategically shirt-tail the Forest Service revision process and begin their plan revision process in a few months, the forest is hitting the ground running led by a keen and confident project leader who will soon be a member of BHA.
During the month of February, the Salmon-Challis regional forester Chuck Mark and his team have been holding public meetings to garner public involvement on the revision and combination of two antiquated resource management plans that guide forest planning across roughly 4.3 million acres, an effort that hasn’t been undertaken in this region for almost 30 years. At these public meetings, the revision process has been described as a 3-phase approach that will take place over the next 4 to 5 years. The forest has made it clear that the old way of developing a forest plan behind closed doors by federal employees is not the way this plan is going to be crafted. Rather, the forest is literally asking the stakeholders, the public, anyone concerned with this pivotal project to help them determine how the whole plan will be developed. This is very exciting for everyone involved as it shows a true sign of desired collaboration between stakeholders and the federal government, something that has been lacking in this neck of the woods and one which has resulted in a history of friction between public land administrators and public land owners. These are truly monumental times for all of us who desire transparency and collaboration from our public land administrators.
As the Central Idaho Coordinator, Mike McConnell has been involved in all of these meetings and has developed relationships with the federal administrative team tasked with the revision process, the local stakeholders such as ranchers, hunters, and outfitters, biologists from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and representatives from other conservation organizations. There has been a very positive and strong response from all of the participants applauding Backcountry Hunters and Anglers for having a “boots on the ground” representative that is willing to work with the agencies and stakeholders while representing the voice of sportsman who cherish our wild public lands, clean water, and the traditions of hunting and fishing that we hold close to our hearts. Exciting times here in Central Idaho and BHA is going to be at the heart of these projects now and into the coming years.