Salmon-Challis National Forest Collaboratives


With the death of the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, NGOs, federal and state agencies, and land trusts had to reorganize. This reorganization has taken place under the Network for Landscape Conservation (NLC). With foundations, the NLC set up the Doris Duke funded “Catalyst Fund“, part of which will be used to “build capacity“. This is a fancy term that means they will bring in more people to advance their organization and objectives. New strategies have also been created for their agenda, one of which is creating collaboratives to “accelerate the pace and practice of collaborative conservation…”.

Two collaboratives in the Salmon area are for the purposes of accelerating this agenda, assisted by multiple NGOs. When the collaborative membership is scrutinized, one can see how these are really a fulfillment of the NGO collaborative strategy and a fabricated front for citizen involvement.

One collaborative, the Lemhi Forest Restoration Group (LFRG), is coordinated by Salmon Valley Stewardship (SVS) which has “worked side by side with Salmon-Challis National Forest (SCNF)” on restoration proposals. But the group is comprised of multiple NGOs, federal and state agencies, and even Sustainable Northwest based in Portland, Oregon, whose members aren’t even from Idaho, except for Heart of the Rockies Initiative (HORI) board member Gary Burnett. Sustainable Northwest created the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition (RVCC) in which Gary Burnett and Toni Ruth from SVS are members.

SVS acts as the LFRG coordinator, with Gina Knudson, former SVS executive director, acting as the SCNF forest plan revision team collaboration specialist. The current SVS Executive Director, Toni Ruth, is an RVCC member, and High Divide Collaborative Coordinating Committee (HDCC) member. Another SVS staff, Mindy Crowell, helped with the organization and facilitation of the Central Idaho’s Public Lands Planning group. How much influence does SVS, and their partner organizations, have in this process?

At a 2018 High Divide workshop, Merrill Beyeler, Lemhi Regional Land Trust (LRLT) Chairman, Jim Berkey, and Gary Burnett – HDCC Representatives, gave introductory remarks which included a “framework of the collaborative: open, transparent, and building trust.” There has been nothing transparent about how these NGOs or individuals operate. Advancing the collaborative was another goal, but that meant expanding to include more federal agencies, NGOs, land trusts, and universities. Toni Ruth, SVS and Breann Green from LRLT were also at this workshop.

These NGOs all receive funding from the Wilburforce Foundation: SVS, HORI, Trout Unlimited (TU), Wilderness Society (WS), Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y), Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA), Nature Conservancy (TNC), Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), even LRLT which has also received funding from the Brainerd Foundation. Each of these NGOs has the same objectives for conserving land into non-use protection for connectivity goals.

Looking at the Central Idaho Public Lands Collaborative (CIPLC) 2018 fall membership roster, it is driven by the same people who serve in other NGOs with the same agenda. CIPLC has several working groups, all of which include those individuals. Mindy Crowell, SVS Collaboration Specialist, facilitates the collaborative.

CIPLC Grazing Management Working Group

Tom Page, represents the Central Idaho Rangelands Network (CIRN) which is coordinated “by The Nature Conservancy with support from the Lemhi Regional Land Trust and Pioneer Mountain Group” whose funding comes from “private foundations, private donors, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.”; Louise Wagenknecht, “Frequent contributor to Writers on the Range, a new project of High Country News” which traditionally publishes articles that support environmentalism and is funded by foundations; Merrill Beyeler, former Idaho Legislator, LRLT Chairman, CIRN founding member, HDCC member. Traveled to Washington D.C. with SVS and RVCC members in 2011; Rob Thornberry, Idaho Field Representative for TRCP, which is a TNC partner, and previously listed as a Y2Y partner; Ace Hess, LRLT member, BHA High Divide Coordinator, a Y2Y partner.

CIPLC Lands and Minerals

Tom Page, CIRN; Rob Mason, Legislator and WS member, a Y2Y partner; Josh Johnson, Idaho Conservation League (ICL) member, a Y2Y partner; Jim Roscoe, LRLT member; Michael Gibson, Idaho Field Coordinator for Trout Unlimited.

CIPLC Forest and Watershed Health

Kim Trotter, U.S. Program Director, Yellowstone to Yukon, HDCC member; Mary Faurot, Supporter of Idaho Rivers United (IRU); Cassi Wood, TU fisheries consultant, a Y2Y partner; Ryan McAllister, 2L Trails member, SVS feasibility study.

CIPLCSustainable Recreation

Louise Bruce, Wilderness Society Idaho High Divide Community Organizer, a Y2Y partner; Chris Gaughan, 2L Trails member, SVS feasibility study; Max Lohmeyer, 2L Trails member, SVS feasibility study; Seth McFarland, SVS staff; Gary Gadwa, Idaho Rivers United (IRU) staff.

ICL’s new Director, Justin Hayes, was previously an environmental advocate in Idaho and Washington, D.C. for Idaho Rivers United. IRU partners with American Rivers, a Y2Y partner, in which American Rivers invited anyone to comment on the SCNF plan revision even though they may not live in the area. Y2Y is partnering with TU and ICL as well on the revision plan. Along with the BLM, another IRU partner is Patagonia, a Y2Y partner.

In 2016, the original CIPLP members included Craig Gehrke, WS; Gina Knudson, SVS; Toni Ruth, SVS, BHA; and Mindy Crowell, SVS. High Divide Collaborative (HDC) participants include the LRLT, Idaho Nature Conservancy, BHA, ICL, SVS, TRCP, TU, Y2Y, and the SCNF, all of whom serve in some capacity in the CIPLP. Kristin Troy of LRLT is also an HDCC member. The CIPLC was clearly intended to be a catalyst for the NGO connectivity agenda from its foundation.

These two collaboratives include 9 NGOs and 2 land trusts. To Lemhi County residents, do you think these two SVS collaboratives are providing objective representation for your community? Or are the collaboratives being used as a front to advance NGO objectives for connectivity? One of the CIPLP ground rules is “No backroom deals, including with agencies, organizations, and people who are not CIPL Collaborative members.” Those organizations are all represented in the Collaborative! Another ground rule, “Participants commit to keeping their colleagues/constituents informed about the progress of these discussions.” Does this not negate the first ground rule? Are NGO colleagues being informed of what happens in the Collaborative?

The Center for Large Landscape Conservation (CLLC), based in Bozeman, has even inserted their opinion for connectivity into your business. And why wouldn’t they, their intent is to get their forest plan revision objectives into federal law, and SCNF is one of their targets. While their website has scrubbed who they collaborate with, CLLC has partnered with many of the NGOs involved in these collaboratives.

It is the partnerships between the High Divide Initiative and Collaborative, and the Salmon Valley Stewardship that are driving this narrative, along with Yellowstone to Yukon and their partners. These are the NGOs and individuals who are controlling the decisions and outcomes, not the local community, and are receiving the funding to do it.

These collaboratives are being used as a vehicle to integrate NGO objectives for connectivity into forest revision plans, in partnership with the forest service. For every collaborative in Idaho, be aware of this con game, it is not a “collaborative” of public participation.