Gov. Otter pushes for high-value solutions to forest, rangeland issues at Idaho workshop of Chairman’s Initiative

Collaboration was the centerpiece of Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's message to attendees at the second workshop of the Western Governors' National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative.

The Governor cited the creation of Rangeland Fire Protection Associations (RFPAs) in Idaho as an example. Before 2012 it was illegal for ranchers to fight fires. The Governor, legislature, and federal and state fire agencies subsequently created the RFPAs, which have now grown to eight districts with nearly 300 volunteers overseeing more than 7 million acres.

Gov. Otter also emphasized finding projects of value on which to collaborate. "People talk to me all the time about the cost of doing things and I understand cost. But when someone comes to me and explains the value of something, that really gets my interest. So I want you all to discuss all of your ideas for improving land management and let's find those with the greatest value."

Jim Lyons, Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals Management, also discussed collaboration's role in blunting the impact of wildfires and invasive species, noting "these are not public land issues or private land issues; they are resource issues that know no political or administrative boundaries."

And Lyons reminded the audience of the reason why this work is so important: "Research has shown that healthy landscapes are more resilient to the impacts of climate, drought and fire. Healthy landscapes improve habitat and connectivity, reducing the risks that species become threatened or endangered."

The speeches opened the two-day (Oct. 20-21) workshop, the second of five hosted by the Western Governors' Association across the West for Montana Gov. Steve Bullock's central policy initiative as Chair of WGA. WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury announced that the next workshop will be hosted by South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Dec. 1-2 in Deadwood, S.D.

Watch videos of all workshop sessions:

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