Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Forest Service finalizes consolidation of Nez Perce and Clearwater National Forests

Leslie Weldon, U.S. Forest Service Deputy Chief for the National Forest System, announced today the decision to administratively combine the Nez Perce and Clearwater National Forests in Idaho. The decision finalizes a five-year process of working toward consolidating leadership and programs between the two National Forests. Due to its central location, the official headquarters will be in Kamiah. There is currently enough space in Forest Service buildings in Kamiah to accommodate this decision.

“I am very appreciative of the concerns, questions and comments from everyone who has been involved,” said Weldon. “All of the input has helped to inform the final decision.”

In 2008, the two forests began to take steps toward the combination with the intent of generating savings of $2 million per year. That goal has been met to ensure funds can be used to maintain on-the-ground-management and service to the public.

 “With the budget challenges we face, there are some administrative combinations that make sense,” said Weldon. “Over the past five years, the Nez Perce and Clearwater National Forest have demonstrated that this is a move that allows more taxpayer money to be put toward improving and maintaining Idaho’s natural resources.”

Weldon said one of the clear messages she heard throughout the combination effort was that the local communities want the Forest Service to maintain offices in their current locations. Her direction is for the combined forests to continue to have a substantial presence in Grangeville and Orofino, the towns that formerly hosted the headquarters offices for the Clearwater and Nez Perce National Forest.

Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell says he will continue to work out of the Grangeville and Orofino offices as needed.

“As a result of this decision, I’m most pleased that forest visitors and the communities we serve will not see any reduction in services to the public,” said Brazell. “This process has always been about decreasing administrative costs to deliver needed work to the ground.”

The reduction in the work force and employee salaries has largely been accomplished through attrition as employees have retired, moved on to other jobs, and the workloads have been streamlined. No employees will be required to move as a result of this decision.

The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests are located in the heart of north-central Idaho. Its four million acres of National Forest System land stretch from the Oregon border on the west to the Montana border on the east, and borders the Idaho Panhandle National Forests to the north and the Payette National Forest to the south.

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