Who Is Salmon Valley Stewardship?

On the Salmon Valley Stewardship (SVS) website, it doesn’t provide a clear picture of how the organization was started, other than it began with “assistance” and “funding” by the Sonoran Institute in 2004 with the hiring of their first full-time staff. Adrienne Blauser was a Sonoran staff member at that time into 2005, and eventually became the SVS Coordinator. Sonoran credits itself for establishing SVS (pg 9). In 2005 Ms. Blauser attended a White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation (pg 3), along with multiple other non-governmental organizations (NGO). This conference followed an executive order that “directed federal agencies to promote cooperative conservation in partnership with states local governments, tribes and individuals”. It was nothing more than giving power to NGOs.

The SVS website states Sonoran, a proponent of “collaborative conservation“, provided 2 years of seed money for what was then called the Salmon River Mountains Working Group. The arrangement ended in July 2006, with SVS no longer receiving funding from Sonoran. In October, 2004, Robert Cope, Lemhi County Commissioner at the time, a BLM staff, Tom McFarland, rancher, and Jay Townsend from Salmon were the Executive Committee, and Ms. Blauser the Coordinator. However, along with Sonoran, other participants in the creation of SVS included the Nature Conservancy and Brainerd Foundation. SVS filed for non-profit status on 11/14/05.

Sonoran was a recipient of funding from the Brainerd Foundation up to 2008. While SVS states no further funding was received from Sonoran, funding was merely shifted from Sonoran to Brainerd in 2006 once SVS was created. Over the years Brainerd grantees have been actively “investing” in the High Divide (HD) region on conservation efforts. The Wilburforce Foundation also contributes to SVS, having funded SVS $115,000 from 2017-2019 for the Yellowstone to Yukon program area.

Gina Knudson, with SVS since 2006, became the SVS Executive Director (ED) in 2007, leaving that position in 2016 to become the SCNF Collaboration Specialist. Ms. Knudson has been involved in several organizations that have landscape conservation objectives. At a 2014 Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GNLCC) steering committee meeting, Ms. Knudson, along with Merrill Beyeler, participated in a panel discussion on Community Based Conservation at the Landscape Scale in the High Divide. The now defunct GNLCC, created by Obama via a memorandum in 2010, was a partnership between federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGO), land trusts, Tribes, and even Canada, to conduct science for the purposes of designing landscapes for conservation. No citizen involvement or recognition of jurisdictional boundaries. Other SVS participants have included NGOs, foundations, and federal, state, and local agencies.

Ms. Knudson is involved in other concerning activities via her SVS role such as the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition (RVCC) as part of the Leadership Team, and the National Forest Foundation (NFF), participating in an NFF Collaborative Project Design session in 2009, and speaking at a 2016 NFF workshop on socio-economic monitoring plans (pg 70).

Perhaps the most disturbing activity Ms. Knudson participated in as the SVS ED is the Heart of the Rockies Initiative (HOTRI), with its participating NGOs, and its facilitated group, the High Divide Collaborative (HDC). SVS is considered a HOTRI “collaborative partner“, along with the government, foundations, and land trusts. The HDC has multiple NGO and land trust participants, along with state and federal agencies. The only collaboration going on is between these groups.

In 2010, the HOTRI developed a plan for cooperative conservation, page 11 gives a complete explanation of their intent for using the High Divide as a linkage area, while page 13 shows the map that includes Lemhi and Custer counties. Their intent, “develop and implement a collective strategy to ensure that, by working with willing private landowners, the most significant private lands in the High Divide are conserved in perpetuity.” SVS is listed on page 88 as a participant in the High Divide Focal Area Workshops. Pages 108-116 are specific to focus areas for conservation in Salmon-Lemhi, with the Sonoran Institute, Nature Conservancy, USFS, BLM, IDFG, HOTRI, Lemhi Regional Land Trust, American Wildlands (which promotes connectivity), and Ms. Knudson as participants in the workshop, held in August, 2009. While SVS claims a separate and independent status from Sonoran, involvement with Sonoran has continued. In 2011 SVS also participated in a Sonoran survey, providing information about the Salmon area. Starting on page 22, Ms. Knudson gives an alarming account of who all is involved, their objectives, and collaboration doesn’t necessarily involve citizens. SVS also participated in an Idaho Land Use Analysis in 2010 with Idaho Smart Growth.

In 2016, Ms. Knudson, along with other NGOs, attended an HDC workshop to discuss “their vision for the desired future condition of the High Divide Landscape”, “build trust and credibility within the collaborative and among stakeholders”, “express their vision for the desired future condition of the High Divide Landscape”, and various conservation strategies. Ms. Knudson spoke on wildfire threats. Stakeholders do not include citizens, it is an arrangement between NGOs with the government. Everything you want to know about their plans can be found in this workshop. Federal and state governments are at the table with every NGO making these plans.

Ms. Knudson also attended the HD workshop in 2017, and discussed the beginning stages of the SCNF collaboration while “Alex Dunn, the Environmental/NEPA Coordinator for Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest then talked about examples of stakeholder-led collaboratives that can lead to all lands conservation at large scale.”, page 13. One question asked was “How can we advance achievement of our collaborative conservation goals?” Aptly stated, “our conservation planning for the High Divide landscape” is what the HOTRI and HDC is all about, planning nothing but conservation for the area, to be brought to citizens for acceptance. Connectivity was an often discussed issue at this workshop and SVS held a workshop on connectivity at the same time.

Toni Ruth became the SVS ED in 2016, having previously worked for IDFG seasonally, and as High Divide Coordinator for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, a known partner with Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y). Ms. Ruth failed to mention being a coordinating committee member on the HORI facilitated HDC, or serving on the RVCC Leadership Team. She also attended the HD workshop in 2017, participated as a panel member on the 2018 HD workshop agenda, provided “gifts” to HOTRI, and plans to attend the HD celebration this month, hosted by the HDC, with Kim Trotter, Y2Y U.S. Program Director, by her side, even though the website states it is not a participant in Y2Y.

In October, 2018 Ms. Ruth gave a talk on Rural Values and Multiple Use Insights from a Community Based Organization in Central Idaho. Those involved in the collaboratives set up by SVS will need to make their own decision on whether or not Ms. Ruth captured the true essence of those collaboratives, but she does reveal her thoughts on how Lemhi county has a true collaborative spirit, while Custer county is “challenging”, have a “bitter taste”, noting the ‘angry villager” bumper stickers, with citizens showing up to “point fingers” and not “listen”. Unclear as to her dismay over the angry villager stickers, it was her counterpart Gina Knudson that coined the phrase towards a citizen at a meeting. Being non-defensive, citizens just took it on.

Ms. Ruth also spoke at the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group meeting in June, 2019, Tension as Catalyst: Land Stewardship and Development Align for a Better Rural West was the subject. She was asked to be part of the panel as an Innovator. At the 40″, 51:23″, 59:42″, and 1:06:05 marks, Ms. Ruth discussed a variety of subjects about the local economy, jobs, SVS work, and the formation of the Lemhi Forest Restoration Group (LFRG). It wasn’t until the 1:10:50″ mark that she revealed SVS funding from federal partners, grants, and individual donations, but never mentions funding from foundations, but does finally admit to involvement with the HDC, minimizing what that collaborative is really about. Ms. Ruth has even partnered with the BLM, IDFG, and SCNF to host an Aspen Workshop. On the SVS Board of Directors there is a USFS employee and others who have worked for the federal government, how enmeshed is that.

The Central Idaho Public Lands Collaborative (CIPLC) is another SVS front group, created in 2015, promoting the USFS “landscape scale conservation” agenda. Starting in 2016, the intial group was comprised of almost half NGO, state, and federal individuals and included many of the 2016 HDC workshop objectives. CIPLC has now created their own “forest vision“. CIPLC is nothing more than another group to promote the false pretense that citizens are involved, use it as a means of promoting a phony narrative of consensus, overppower citizen input by forcing them to work through the collaborative, and implement federal government and NGO objectives. It should be no surprise Ms. Knudson was selected as “Collaboration Specialist”, the USFS has been working with her for years on the same objectives, in the same groups. Creating a “diverse group of citizens” really means diverse federal and NGO members.

Sustainable Northwest (SN), based in Oregon, created the RVCC program in 2000. LFRG, with its SN, NGO, and government partners, has been “coordinated” by RVCC partner SVS since 2006.

Other conservation initiatives focusing on the High Divide are the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), Y2Y, and previously the GNLCC. As part of their objective to prioritize routes for grizzlies and wolverines, they intend to secure “protection of those routes from development” including purchasing private land, establishing conservation easements, preclude development such as timber harvest, oil and gas development, mineral extraction, and road building, limiting hunting, guiding land development with regulations, educating the public and children on connectivity”, and the list goes on. SVS has participated with these groups for the same objectives, and very prominently with government agencies. These objectives will continue to destroy the economic viability of the Salmon-Challis area. Two new front groups, born out of the HDC, are being funded, the Forestry and Fire Working Group, and Wildlife Connectivity Working Group.

Since the 2005 White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation, decisions are being made between federal and state governments with NGOs. Collaboration is between them, a lie, a deceitful way in which the federal government uses NGOs to implement their agenda for our land. Like a cancer cell replicating itself, these NGOs continue to grow themselves with new front groups in partnership with the government. It is one way the government has grown itself and the agenda is controlling land use. NGOs call it “capacity building“.

SVS is a Sonoran created front group for Brainerd that only collaborates with other NGOs, the “stakeholders” for the same conservation objectives, bringing those objectives to the table for citizens to swallow, then can’t understand why citizens reject them. Even more objectionable is the fact that SVS and the others are planning all of this with our governments. Every one of these groups that SVS engages with are also involved with the government. Shame on them and shame on our government.

All of these NGOs have only one goal in mind, conservation of land, mapping out and planning how they think the land should be managed and used. Using money from foundations and your tax dollar, their goal is taking land for permanent protection, using wildlife and other environmental aspects to create corridors, targeting private property and unprotected land for linkage areas between protected areas for connectivity, and interfering in local land use plans to insert conservation regulations. Those foundations should be giving all of that money to citizens, let citizens use it for restoration projects without all of the agenda ridden objectives. Same with the government, give our tax dollar back to us so we can use it for the benefit of where we live, quit laundering it through NGOs for your and their objectives to take and control more land.

For all of these NGO leaders who don’t understand, let us put it in simple terms to help you understand. Our Republic does not operate on collaboration and consensus, decisions are made by local government jurisdictions and citizens, not “stakeholders”, according to law. Representatives are elected by citizens at the local level, and it is their job to listen to how those citizens want their jurisdiction and land managed. Those decisions do not belong with individuals or groups outside of the area, who are used as a money laundering scheme for foundations and government entities, especially with contrived plans on how they think land should be “visioned”. You and the government are buddies, admit it. Jurisdicational planning does not include regional decisions.

For the confusion about trust, it is really very simple. SVS and other NGOs operate without full disclosure. Behind the scenes planning and decisions are being made by NGOs and the government for citizens, without their involvement, and with massive amounts of funding in support of those hidden objectives. If it is truly the intent to listen to citizens, be inclusive, and acknowledge other perspectives as SVS claims, then why is Ms. Ruth so mystified about the reaction of Custer county citizens? Is it because citizens are not buying into the pre-laid plans made by the HOTRI, HDC, NGOs, and the government, instead choosing to advocate for their right to determine how their land is managed? Is that the source of frustration for you Ms. Ruth? Given your and others lack of transparency about what you are really doing, perhaps those fingers being pointed at you are justified, and citizens are tired of listening to your rhetoric.

Those citizens have had the courage to speak up about their shunned perspectives, the nefarious relationship between SVS and the USFS, and the unwillingness of the USFS and SVS to give consideration to anything they have to say. “Stakeholders” is a word really meant only for the relationship between NGOs and other cronies, and a slick way to hide the lack of citizen involvement and input. It is an empty word, citizens are not being given any legitimate place in the conversation, behind the scenes activities, or at the “collaborative” table. This is a statewide problem, it is the exact same dynamic that NGOs and the governments play elsewhere.

As for the solution, the foundation of our Republican form of government should be reinstituted. The USFS is a public servant, responsible to citizens, and should only be working with those who live in the forest plan revision area. This should also include citizen elected local representatives, and it is citizen perspectives that should be given priority, not from some group created “consensus”, which dilutes citizen voices. The collaboratives set up by SVS should be dismantled. New groups should be formed with only Custer and Lemhi county citizens, local representatives, and USFS employees. It is time this long game is ended. There is no shared stewardship, the Republic does not operate that way, authority lies with the people in the local jurisdiction.

SVS is a front group of the HOTRI and HDC, with full government support and backing, created for the sole purpose of targeting the Salmon-Challis area, and strengthened by the White House “cooperative conservation” conference, there is nothing community based about it. SVS and their NGO partners should disclose what they are really doing, the work they have engaged in for years with the GNLCC, HOTRI, and HDC, having their planned landscape conservation design to be executed on local communities. Let them come forward with their vision of conservation for the whole area that does not recognize jurisdictional boundaries, and the connectivity objectives they are planning with corridors, linkage areas, use of conservation easements, and land purchases to accomplish this objective. It should also be brought forth their interfering with local land use plans that include regulatory restrictions on land use such as Ms. Knudson did with the Lemhi comprehensive plan in 2012, and NGO intent to insert themselves into forest revision plans. Speak to those issues SVS because those are the facts. The responsibility for local growth, the economy, and jobs was never assigned to you. In fact, it has been the work of NGOs to prohibit logging and proper forest management, both which have lead to catastrophic fires, that has contributed to the economic difficulties. You own that. You and your NGO and government counterparts are responsible for destroying the economic base and are just continuing the same agenda with your conservation objectives. With all of their little “collaboration” groups, it is responsibility of SVS to get citizens to accept the fixed objectives and plans for conservation by them, HOTRI, HDC, and the government. This will no longer be the case.

To SVS and their NGO and government pals, don’t underestimate the intelligence of citizens, or their ability to recognize when they are being manipulated or dismissed.

It is time for citizens to take the narrative back and exercise their authority.


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