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His goal for the collaboration? "Same number [of livestock] for the same time."
O’Brien’s goal — beyond local aspen restoration and data collection — is to set an example.
If the collaboration can work here, she said, it could influence statewide forest planning and even an expected new national set of rules governing grazing on national forests. Working together for both trees and ranchers could become the norm.
"This is the first time a group has tried to look at a whole mountain, and it’s got the whole suite of aspen issues," she said. "It’s a working example of the kind of collaboration that, supposedly, the Forest Service is wanting to encourage."
She gives much credit to Jason Kling, Richfield District ranger for the Fishlake National Forest. He opened the planning process to this kind of outside help, in the process opening it to extra scrutiny.
Kling said the result is a possible solution that he’s unsure his agency could have reached on its own. Also, he said, the persistent threat of environmental lawsuits and appeals made the potential payoff for up-front cooperation obvious.
"There’s enough issues that it’s going to take a team effort," he said.
Fishlake officials will finalize a grazing proposal and put it out for public comment next year.
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