Wildfire isn’t the only threat facing Idaho’s forests. According to the National Insect and Disease Risk Map, Idaho leads the country in the number of treed acres at risk of high rates of mortality from insect and disease by 2027. For every 1 cubic foot of wood harvested, 3 cubic feet die in our forests. High mortality rates lead to reduced carbon sequestration, increased wildfire risk and pose a threat to Idaho’s forest products industry and the jobs it supports in our rural communities.
With 6.1 million acres at risk in Idaho, there’s a lot of work to do. In July, Governor Little announced two priority areas, encompassing over 4 million acres. Idaho Forest Group operates within these areas and is committed to supporting individual projects by sharing technology and data, adjusting capacity to meet demand, and lending expertise wherever needed.
In December 2018, Idaho signed the nation’s first Shared Stewardship agreement with the U.S. Forest Service, pledging to double the number of acres treated to reduce wildfire risk and improve the health of our ailing forests. The concept of the Shared Stewardship policy is to allow states to define priorities and manage projects across land ownerships, utilizing collaborative decision-making that involves land managers and land users throughout the process. This agreement shaped a collaboration between Idaho Department of Lands and USFS Regions 1 and 4 to reduce fuels and wildfire threats around communities; create and sustain jobs; and improve the health and resiliency of the forest.
The Idaho-USFS Shared Stewardship Agreement promises to double the annual acres treated in Idaho by 2025. Currently about 50,000 USFS acres in Idaho get intentional treatment via commercial timber harvest, mechanical fuels treatment, and prescribed fire each year. At this status quo rate it would take an estimated 121 years to treat the 6.1 million acres. If all fuels reduction efforts are doubled, it would cut the restoration time in half – to 60 years.
Ambiguity remains around how this important work will be funded in the future. In order to achieve the lofty goals set forth in the agreement, there will likely need to be a reprioritization of resources on a national and state level. The Governor will be appointing thirteen members to a newly created Shared Stewardship Advisory Group to provide strategic direction and support for achieving Idaho’s goals. Idaho Forest Group stands ready to assist in the full implementation of this important policy!
Learn more about the forest health conditions in Idaho & Montana.