Idaho Gov. Butch Otter says the state got to the front of the line for funds to thin Idaho forests because of the collaborative groups that have formed in the state’s national forests.
Idaho had proposed logging and thinning projects totaling 1.7 million acres across Idaho’s 20 million acres of national forest, including parts of the Boise National Forest northwest of Banks and around Bogus Basin. Otter’s proposal, put together by the Idaho Department of Lands, identified 8.8 million acres out of 12.6 million acres outside of wilderness areas and other protective designations that qualify as high risk for insect infestation, disease and fire, Otter told the Boise Rotary Club this week.
“We were able to put our (proposal) together pretty fast,” Otter said, because “we’ve had collaborative groups working in every forest.”
Previously Otter hasn’t credited these collaborative groups statewide made up of timber company foresters, environmentalists and others for increasing timber harvest in the state. But the groups have gotten federal dollars to set up the timber sales other states haven’t had — including one on the Payette National Forest. He's taking notice.
His Democratic opponent for governor, Boise businessman A.J. Balukoff, calls for using collaboration to resolve all sorts of policy issues in the state.
Timber sales the Payette collaborative group promoted have been large enough that the Tamarack timber mill near New Meadows has been able to add a shift.
Otter has proposed giving the state the authority to manage the timber on some Forest Service lands, claiming it would be able to get the work done quicker. The Farm Bill does include language that would allow state foresters to put up timber sales on adjoining federal lands.
But State Forester David Groeshl said it would be difficult for state foresters to do the work on federal land since their job is to maximize long-term returns on state lands. Meanwhile, an Idaho Legislature interim committee continues its study of demanding the federal government to turn over the public land to the state.
The Federal Lands Interim Committee will hold meetings across the state this fall prior to the November election. They begin next week in Kamiah, St. Maries and Sandpoint.