Friday, October 17, 2014

County supports climate adaptation plan

Data analysis would provide recommendations in response to global warming

Express Staff Writer

    The Blaine County commissioners have agreed to contribute $5,000 of county money toward a study that would assess the Wood River Valley’s vulnerability to climate change and provide recommendations for the future.
    “Temperatures are predicted to rise from 3 to 11 degrees over the next 50 years,” said Sawtooth National Forest Environmental Coordinator Carol Brown to the commissioners during a meeting Tuesday. “How are we going to prepare for that?”
    Brown presented details of a proposed $30,000 Wood River Climate Adaptation Plan, which she said could be led by the U.S. Forest Service and include numerous local partners. The plan would compile and analyze data from the Big Wood and Little Wood River drainages south to state Highway 75, including data on water availability and fire activity.
    Commissioner Larry Schoen recommended expanding the project study area south of Highway 20 to encompass Silver Creek.
    “Silver Creek is an important resource and should be included,” he said.
    Brown said numerous groups in the Wood River Valley are approaching issues related to climate change, but that her plan would bring those groups together under one roof, and provide concrete recommendations to city and county leaders and other organizations.
    “This is especially important now while you are updating your comprehensive plans,” she said.
    The city of Bellevue, to which Brown plans to present her plan, is rewriting its comprehensive plan in preparation for a proposed annexation that would nearly double the city’s size.
    Brown said the Sawtooth National Forest would provide $5,000 for the plan. She said she would be available to perform oversight as part of her regular job. Ketchum, Hailey and the BLM will also be asked for $5,000 each, she said.
    Recommended actions resulting from the plan could include restoration of watersheds to manage water quality and quantity, creating invasive
species management and updated fire management plans, and developing plans for increasing recreation at higher altitudes.
    The Climate Adaptation Plan calls for a half-time employee to work for one year for $30,000 to write a resource vulnerability study specific to the Wood River Valley, based on a 12-month “virtual curriculum” provided by the Forest Service’s Climate Solutions University.  Numerous leaders and organizations from the community would be engaged with the study.
    Representatives from the Idaho Conservation League, Blaine County Recreation District and the Wood River Land Trust were at the Tuesday meeting, and generally agreed with the goals of the plan.
    Several of the interested participants mentioned that they are already working with the related 5B Restoration program, a community-led initiative working to restore areas damaged by the Beaver Creek Fire.
    “We began as a prequel to 5B Restoration without knowing it,” Brown said.        

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