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Salmon-Challis National Forest Collaboration Specialist Gina Knudson introduced the Lemhi County Commissioners to Josh Milligan Monday, October 24, as the appointed team leader of the Salmon-Challis Forest Revision Plan.

Milligan has arrived in Salmon from the Wallowa Whitman National Forest and told the commissioners he was a Forest Planner in Alaska for 15 years, in Colorado for two years and in Oregon for one year. His background includes fuels planning and litigation and said he was an attorney at law before joining the Forest Service. He referred to Salmon as being, “…a pretty good spot to do some good with this planning effort.

The Salmon-Challis National Forest Management Plan is now 30 years old. Milligan said the local Forest Plan Revision has been funded as a four-year project and eventually will acquire a whole team of people. For now, Knudson and Milligan are the team of two as the revision process gets underway.

Milligan said that the document which will result from the revision effort will be in effect for the next 15 to 20 years so it is vitally important that the public contributes its input about what revisions are needed and where.

The first of the three phase revision process is an assessment of what resources are important, what resources are in the Salmon-Challis Forest and identifying their condition and trend. Milligan said, “Fundamentally what it does is that it basically daylights where direction is needed, where it’s not needed and what it should look like…what’s working, what’s not working.” He said public input is crucial for that first phase because the assessment process is where the document’s priorities and direction will be established and will heavily influence what will eventually be in the Revised Management Plan.

The second step of the process is actually writing the Forest Management Plan Revision from the input gathered and the third step is an environmental document.

Knudson is the former Executive Director of Salmon Valley Stewardship (SVS) and was involved with a citizen-driven public lands collaborative planning group SVS initiated two years ago. The purpose of the collaborative effort was, and is, to inform the public about the importance of the upcoming forest revision and to get people deeply involved in the forest planning process because they will be personally affected by its outcome for the next two decades. She said the level of response has been exciting, especially in the Pahsimeroi Valley where as one rancher explained it, “If you are not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

Knudson said there has been great support from the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association, range permittees and anyone who has a special use permit. She said the county can be involved by way of supporting and encouraging public involvement and also by contributing the county’s view of needs. County input began that day with comments about the need to use fuels for co-generation rather than for producing smoke: public access; emphasis on multiple use of public lands and shortening the governmental processes now required to get things done. Milligan said part of the revision process will involve a study of the meaningful role the forest plays in the socio-economic health of the counties and how to tell that story because, “That’s an important story.”

When the Forest Service public meetings begin after the first of the year Knudson said an effort will be made to coordinate meeting schedules with the citizen-driven planning group in order to avoid too many meetings. Knudson encouraged the commissioners to keep her informed of any confusion or rumors they may hear about the project so she can act on the issues.

Milligan reiterated the importance of making public input heard. He said this is an opportunity to do something good. He wants to be able to keep the momentum going and get the revision done.

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