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The applicant for the upper Blackfoot projects — a coalition involving three mining companies, Trout Unlimited and the Idaho Conservation League called the Upper Blackfoot Confluence — contributed $750,000 toward replacing the old diversions, owned by ranchers Keith Hunsaker and Kent Allen.
Matt Woodard, with TU, said a conservation team with his organization determined in a 2011 assessment “all conditions were still on the ground for success” in the Blackfoot watershed, even though native Yellowstone cutthroat trout populations have been “hammered back.”
The debate over whether to protect the Boulder-White Clouds as a national monument or as a wilderness or to keep the existing wilderness study areas has dominated land discussions in Idaho.
But a group of conservationists, timber industry representatives, local officials, motorized recreationists and the Nez Perce Tribe have been working quietly for eight years on a wilderness bill for the Clearwater-Nez Perce National Forest. Just like Rep. Mike Simpson and his Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act for the Boulder and White Clouds mountains, the Clearwater Basin Collaborative hasn't called what it's working on a wilderness bill.
In fact, at the website for the Clearwater Collaborative you will find the word "wilderness" only once in passing. That's because many of the most outspoken residents of Idaho and Clearwater counties revile wilderness areas, where logging, road-building and motorized recreation is prohibited.
Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2015/02/02/3623593_crapos-collaborative-re...
That's when the unlikely group got together to try and figure out how to solve the problem. Three phosphate mining companies -- including Monsanto and Simplot -- came together to help fund the Upper Blackfoot Confluence (UBC), an umbrella group that includes two environmental nonprofits.
Matt Woodard is with Trout Unlimited, one of the conservation groups in the partnership.
"We took a somewhat adversarial relationship and turned it into something that is a working relationship," says Woodard.
Woodard says the UBC has begun bringing back the Yellowstone cutthroat trout in the area. He's working with ranchers to update their irrigation equipment, which saves them time and money in the long-run. It has has helped improve trout habitat. So far they have been able to open up 25 miles of new cutthroat spawning habitat on private property.
In the past, lands having these diverse values have been a source of debate and conflict. But the recent agreement forged among Roan stakeholders demonstrates that we can strike a responsible balance that both promotes energy development and conserves irreplaceable landscapes and wildlife habitat.
Idaho has received USDA grants to help Blackfoot River ranchers improve diversions and to implement programs to stabilize the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer.
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