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Our Gem: Promoting and protecting our area’s natural resources

| November 20, 2022 1:00 AM

It takes a village to manage our local natural resources. Luckily, we have some outstanding community members who work tirelessly to do just that. With all the good work being done in the area, there is a need to ensure their work is shared and coordinated with others. The Coeur d’Alene Regional Chamber has a committee for professionals, volunteers and businesses to share ideas and projects. The committee goals are managing and restoring the natural resources in our region.

The Coeur d’Alene Regional Chamber of Commerce Natural Resource Committee engages in activities to promote and protect the area’s natural resources. It works to further the interests of the natural resource-based industries such as timber, mining, agriculture, fish and wildlife and recreation. The mission of the Natural Resources Committee is to proactively advocate for the sustainable use and enjoyment of our abundant natural resources in a manner that safeguards and enhances our environment over the long term.

The Natural Resources Committee is chaired by Jim Ekins, a local water educator for University of Idaho Extension. The committee meets monthly to discuss and share upcoming projects. Committee members include the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Fish and Game, Forest Service, mining companies, Idaho Forest Group, elected representatives’ staff, the Chamber, Idaho Department of Lands and University of Idaho just to name a few. Each meeting starts with an informative presentation about a local natural resource area of interest, by an expert in that area, and concludes with a round-robin style discussion of each organization’s efforts.

The committee communicates regional natural resource management efforts with the broader Chamber of Commerce network, and then it organizes and supports natural resource-related educational and community outreach programs. The annual Osprey Cruise is one example of a popular educational event organized by the NRC Committee. It also supports efforts to protect water quality, support sustainable fish and wildlife populations and promote quality recreational opportunities, and is a great partner with Our Gem Collaborative.

The Our Gem Coeur d’Alene Lake Collaborative is a team of committed and passionate professionals working to preserve lake health and protect water quality by promoting community awareness of local water resources through education, outreach and stewardship. Our Gem includes local experts from the University of Idaho Community Water Resource Center, Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Coeur d’Alene Regional Chamber of Commerce, Kootenai County and Cd’A 2030.

The Natural Resources Committee also hosts the Local Gem Award Program to recognize those in the Coeur d’Alene Basin who work to protect water quality through implementing low impact development, dedication to water quality education and protecting water quality by using best management practices. Local Gem Awards are given to individuals, businesses or organizations for showing leadership in natural resources and water quality protection.

The Natural Resources Committee is a great example of how collaboration can strengthen relationships and improve communication. Collaborative efforts have been found to reduce conflict, build trust among participants and create new networks for sharing information and coordinating project management. These all lead to greater community resilience. Any Chamber member is welcome to attend any NRC meeting, held from 7:30 to 9 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month in the Chamber’s office, 105 N. First St., Coeur d'Alene, and via Zoom. Non-Chamber members can attend individual meetings with permission but are encouraged to become a member.