Idaho Governor Brad Little says he’s pleased that state and federal agencies are making forest health projects a higher priority. The governor led a panel discussion Tuesday in Post Falls that was focused on natural resource management. That includes increasing timber harvests in the region’s federal forests.
The venue was a daylong Western Governors Association workshop to “Reimagine the Rural West.”
Brad Little was the only governor attending. He played a featured role in a discussion about managing natural resources. He says he’s pleased the Forest Service is working more closely with his state’s agencies to treat more of the federal forest land within the Gem State’s boundaries. He says there’s still work to do to remove crowded stands of trees.
“We’re going to have to get better faster to avoid the next, what I think might be a catastrophic event," Little said.
The call for a more aggressive timber harvest to improve forest health was echoed by Tom Schultz from the Idaho Forest Group. He says the harvest on federal lands in the West spiked in the late 1980s, leading to an increase in the number of forested acres that burned.
“You can say it’s climate change. You can say it’s drought. You can say it’s insect and disease," Schultz said. "The other piece you can not take away, though, is with the lack of active management. There has been an increase in forest fires. There is a correlation there.”
“The seven forests in Idaho in the last five years have significantly increased the amount of timber on national forest system lands," said Cheryl Probert, who supervises the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest in north central Idaho. “It’s an area where we talk about goods for services and we are opening up and allowing the timber industry to do those other services around aquatic restoration and other work out there on the ground."
Participants at Tuesday’s Western Governors Association also talked about issues such as energy and the outdoor recreation economy.