Friday, November 3, 2006

Vision sought for Idaho?s crown jewel

Grassroots process aims to guide SNRA management


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area headquarters, eight miles north of Ketchum, is the management hub for the 756,000-acre management jurisdiction. A diverse group of SNRA stakeholders is working in collaboration with the SNRA to build a long-range management blueprint. Photo by Chris Pilaro

Forward-thinking vision is what it's all about.

Public forums will be held Saturday, Nov. 4, in Ketchum and Stanley to encourage people and organizations to review and comment on a proposed long-range strategy for the 756,000-acre Sawtooth National Recreation Area, north of Ketchum.

The project, called Sawtooth Vision 20/20, has been a year-long, multi-agency and multi-stakeholder work-in-progress. It is a community-based, long-range planning process meant to collaboratively develop a 35-year vision for the SNRA.

"As far as I know, it is the first time there has been a community-based comprehensive plan for the SNRA," said Stanley resident Paul Hill, who hatched the concept with Sawtooth Society Executive Director Bob Hayes.

The variety of participants makes this different from the Forest Service planning process. "This is different because what it focuses on is: What are the critical challenges facing the SNRA today? The Forest Service has never tried to involve everybody the way this does."

And the process has, indeed, included a wide variety of 40 participants. They range from local outfitters and business representatives to state and federal public land managers. They include ranchers and environmentalists, county commissioners and a U.S. senator. The first part of the process was among the roughly 35 stakeholders who brought a broad spectrum of values and interests to the table and established a draft vision and plan.

The draft vision states, in part:

"Sustainable natural ecosystems and local communities thrive and adapt to changes in the environment. Managers, visitors and residents embrace the special nature of the landscape and are enriched by their experience."

The vision is then broken down more specifically, into goals for economic and community stability, historic, pastoral, and scenic, fish and wildlife, recreation and natural and sustainable ecosystems components.

"I'm obviously excited about it and also committed to it," Hill said. "It's been so far 15 months of my life, and it's going to be more, I suspect, in the future."

The public forums this weekend are part of the second component of the process. According to the Sawtooth Society, they will be designed to collect feedback on the preliminary workshop products and to identify potential actions and partnerships to address critical issues.

Feedback and other information from the public forums will be used by workshop participants to refine their products. The final product from Sawtooth Vision 20/20 will be recommendations from the workshop participants for use by the Forest Service in preparation of a strategic plan.

According to Janet Kellam, one of the process participants, Sawtooth Vision 20/20 is meant to:

· To involve all stakeholders in the SNRA.

· To create effective partnerships on critical issues and long-range plans.

· To unify and leverage funding from multiple sources.

· To create better continuity and oversight for the local Forest Service administration.

To check out the work or chime in on the process, go to one of the two Saturday, Nov. 4, meetings: The Community Library in Ketchum from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. or the Stanley Community Center from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

For more information, go to www.sawtoothsociety.org/snra.

"This is about cooperation rather than conflict," Hill said.




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