Idaho state foresters are using a provision of the 2014 federal Farm Bill to increase logging in some forests. The collaborative approach comes at a time when the debate over public land management continues – often at a fever pitch.
Tucked into the 2014 Farm Bill was what’s known as the Good Neighbor Authority, a policy that encourages states to cooperate with the Forest Service to thin fire-prone forests. Tom Schultz directs the Idaho Department of Lands, and says they’re ready to ramp up these projects in four national forests – including the Boise and the Payette.
“The work that we’re doing is at the request of the Forest Service," says Schultz. "These aren’t projects we’re taking on without [the Forest Service] asking us to do these projects.”
Schultz says the success of the program in the first three years has prompted the state agency to grow. According to the Spokesman Review, the department has requested eight new positions. He says the initiative allows the state to streamline the process for logging projects that are less than 3,000 acres in size with unhealthy stands of trees.
In the next few years they hope to increase the amount of timber harvested in Idaho’s dense forest land. Schultz says if they could fill those eight positions they could double current yearly harvests and meet the Forest Service’s benchmark. If the pace continues, state officials estimate Idaho could rake in $13 million over the next three to five years.
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