Priest Community Forest Connection

Posted: Nov 1, 2006

Updated: February 2011 (story formerly called: "Lakeface-Lamb Stewardship Project")

Collaborative partners: Priest Community Forest Connection (PCFC), U.S. Forest Service, local businesses (construction, mills, landscaping, machinery, weed spraying, forestry, and recreation), West Bonner County School District, Priest River Urban Renewal Agency, City of Priest River, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality

Objectives
  • Promote community education and collaborative processes concerning local forest issues
  • Ensure forest and ecosystem health through private and agency based forest restoration opportunities
  • Help provide for a sustainable forest resource-based economy within the local region.
Challenges
  • Working with government agencies due to bureaucratic obstacles and regulation adherence (especially for the landfill project)
  • For the educational programs, sustainable funding has been the major obstacle
Project Summary:

In 1999, Congress required the Forest Service to use stewardship contracting, allowing the agency to retain profits from the sale of timber and to use those for local forest restoration projects. One funded contractor is responsible for completing all the work on a project. Due to a persistent group of citizens, in 2002 the Priest River Development Corporation’s Stewardship Advisory Committee became the first all-volunteer, non-profit group to become a prime contractor for a Forest Service contract. The Priest Community Forest Connection was created from the advisory committee in 2005 and became the prime contractor for the Lakeface-Lamb contract in 2007.

Handpiling crewValmet forwarder operator, James Huling, explains to a Priest River Lamanna High School Forestry class the different log sorts required for a variety of mill uses. Photo courtesy of PCFC 

Accomplishments:

The Lakeface-Lamb Stewardship Project covered approximately 7,200 acres, 1,600 acres of which were restored. Its goal was to deal with the problems created by the proximity of development to these wild lands. The activities “mandated” by the contract included: reforestation, handpiling, mechanical piling, slashing, fire line construction, burning and leave tree protection. Optional contract activities included building riparian fencing and a recreation hut, ATV trail obliteration, white pine pruning, road maintenance, interpretative signs, culvert replacement, and road obliteration. Local businesses and contractors, the local school district, and many community members became involved in the project. It was completed in 2008.

Liz Johnson-Gebhardt, PCFC Executive Director, says the most significant accomplishment of the stewardship project was the relationship it established between the Forest Service and their organization. “The relationship is very strong and very positive, and has extended to our current projects,” she says.

Today, the PCFC is keeping busy with many other community programs. The Forest Exposition is an educational program for sixth-graders that takes students on field trips and provides hands-on activities. The PCFC also assists with the forestry program at Priest River Lamanna High School.

In addition, the organization is doing research on biomass issues and investigating possible partnerships in that area.

Ownership of the Priest River former landfill was transferred to PCFC in 2010 and they have begun working with TerraGraphics Environmental Engineering to develop a restoration plan. The intention is to turn the area into a community park allowing access to the Priest River.

Lessons learned
  • Having a personal relationship with an agency member is extremely helpful
  • Face-to-face connections are far more valuable in collaboration settings
  • Funding for community education programs is available – you just have to search for it
  • Establishing community partnerships is very useful in providing a variety of opportunities for educational programs
  • Problems often present opportunities; for example, the landfill restoration project has presented the opportunity to build a community park
Additional resources

Stewardship Contracting: Basic stewardship contracting concepts, USDA Forest Service

Priest Community Forest Connection

Contact information: Liz Johnson-Gebhardt, pcfc.liz@gmail.com
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