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PC Chelsea Chambers

Featured Article

Serving Idaho for Nearly 40 Years

The Idaho Recreation and Tourism Initiative

Article by Chelsea Chambers

Photography by Skylar Jett, Erik Ryan, Chelsea Chambers, Peter Schuler

Originally published in Boise Lifestyle

From the towering peaks of Mount Borah to the cool depths of Lake Pend Oreille and all the diverse landscapes in between, Idaho’s recreational heritage is unequivocally why so many people have fallen in love with the Gem State. Comprised of over fifty million acres of forests, rivers, deserts, and more, there’s no shortage of ways to get yourself into nature.

With nearly 20,000 miles of trails, over 100,000 river miles, and more than 2,000 (named) lakes, it’s safe to say that there is truly something for everyone, whether you like leisurely walking or whitewater rafting, Idaho’s recreational abundance provides. And groups like the Idaho Recreation and Tourism Initiative formed to ensure that those opportunities remain for generations to come.

Established in 1988, the Idaho Recreation and Tourism Initiative (IRTI) is a coalition of state, federal, and nonprofit entities, banded together to share ideas, expertise, and funding to protect Idaho’s recreational opportunities. Partners like the Idaho Department of Commerce, Idaho Fish and Game, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Idaho Business for the Outdoors, and so many more have been meeting for nearly 40 years.

The main focus of this group is collaboration. With so many opportunities to get outdoors, it can often present an abundance of challenges, many of which are shared by entities across the state. How do you manage the influx of people interested in recreating? What communication tactics are most effective? What do people want to see more of? Less of? And how can all of this be accomplished?

Idaho Senator Rick Just was one of the early members of IRTI and spent the better part of two decades with the initiative. “I was on the organizing committee and served as an IRTI member representing the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation until my retirement in 2013. Shortly after my retirement, I took over as coordinator of the organization,” he shared. “One of the best things about IRTI is that it is composed of agency staff who are working day to day on problems both in the field and with public information.”

Many programs that formed with IRTI are still ongoing today. Initiatives like Idaho Fish and Game’s statewide Free Fishing Day, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation’s Stay on Trails campaign, and the Idaho Conference on Recreation and Tourism (ICORT) all got their start around the table of the Idaho Recreation and Tourism Initiative.

One of the most successful and ongoing undertakings of IRTI is the Be Outside, Idaho! grant program, an annual grant cycle that focuses solely on projects that get children and their families into nature.

While the group has seen a lot of turnover in the nearly 40 years since its inception, IRTI continues to focus on the needs of Idaho, its people, and the recreation and tourism opportunities that abound here. By bringing together land managers, nonprofits, and devoted staff members from all corners of Idaho’s state and federal government, things can really get done. Even if it seems to take time…as all good things do!

  • PC Erik Ryan
  • PC Chelsea Chambers
  • PC Chelsea Chambers
  • PC Peter Schuler