This Arbor Day, I vote for trees

GUEST OPINION: NATURAL RESOURCES

April 23, 2014 

I've spent more than 40 years working for the great state of Idaho. After all this time, I continue to be amazed by our tremendous natural resources and all they do for the state.

As secretary of state, I oversee the election process, facilitate business activity and provide timely public record information. I also serve as a member of the State Board of Land Commissioners, better known as the Land Board.

The Land Board provides direction in managing over 2.4 million acres of state endowment trust lands, including nearly a million acres of forests. These forests were granted to Idaho at statehood and have been working for Idaho's public schools and institutions ever since. Revenue from trees harvested on these forests has long provided the majority of money invested into the endowment funds each year from the management of state lands. In 2014, the payout from the endowment topped $48.8 million in distributions to public schools and universities, and state charitable institutions such as the Veterans Hospital and the penitentiary.

These endowment distributions aid the state in three ways. First, the $48.8 million paid out in 2014 are dollars that will not need to be raised through taxes. These monies are actually created with water, soil and sunshine by growing trees. Second, because trees are a renewable resource, when a tree is harvested today, another can be replanted for the future. Forests can be sustainably managed for our needs down the road. Finally, growing, harvesting and making trees into wood and paper products keeps our neighbors and local businesses working and contributing to our state's economy.

Our state has been growing, harvesting and replanting trees for more than a century. It's a formula that works. In the past five years, we've hand-planted 1.4 million trees every year on state endowment forests in addition to what nature seeds. That's one tree for every person in the state every year. When you add this to the number of seedlings planted and seeded on private and federal forest lands, it's a lot of trees.

From clean water to wildlife habitat and recreation to carbon storage, we've all heard about the great benefits of trees. Friday is Arbor Day, a celebration of trees and working forests. I encourage you to look to the forest this Arbor Day and consider the many ways trees contribute to our state and our lives.

Ysursa is Idaho Secretary of State.

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