Governor Brad Little set July 1 as a deadline for the identification of two largescale project areas in Idaho where federal, state, and private land management activities will align to reduce wildfire risk to communities, create and sustain jobs, and improve the health of Idaho’s forests and watersheds.
The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) and U.S. Forest Service were charged to identify the two “priority landscapes”– one in northern Idaho and one in southern Idaho – where partners will test a new approach to land management across ownership types in Idaho. These areas of focus were announced last week.
The agencies, working with private landowners and others, will align management projects on separate but adjacent ownership types to maximize fuel reduction and forest restoration on a larger scale. It is the first step in implementing the “Shared Stewardship” agreement that Governor-elect Little and federal officials signed in December of 2018.
“Idaho continues to pioneer new, collaborative efforts to protect our citizens and communities from wildfire,” Governor Little said. “Working with our federal partners, private landowners, and many others, the State of Idaho will test this latest innovative approach, so we can make a meaningful difference in the health of our lands and water.”
The northern Idaho priority landscape encompasses approximately 2 million acres across Boundary, Bonner, Kootenai, and Shoshone counties. The area covers a variety of forest landowners and an extensive complex of wildland-urban interface where homes, infrastructure, and communities may be at higher risk from wildfire.
The southern Idaho priority landscape includes 2.3 million acres in Adams, Washington, Valley, Idaho and Gem counties and includes small communities and areas where rangelands transition into forest.
The Gem County portion encompasses most of the northern portion of the county beginning south of Ola near Soldier Creek. Much of the Gem County land is Bureau of Land Management range land with some Forest Service lands near Sage Hen and High Valley.
According to the Idaho Department of Lands, over 106,000 acres or just under 5 percent of the southern Idaho priority landscape.
Part of the Shared Stewardship goal is to double the number of acres treated on federal forests in Idaho by 2025. Using mechanical treatments, commercial forest restoration treatments, and prescribed fire, partners will focus treatments on the 6.1 million acres that have been federally designated for insect and disease infestation.
Governor Little has also announced he is appointing an advisory group to successfully implement Shared Stewardship in Idaho. The group members offer a balance of interests and skills and include the following representatives, who will be named in the coming weeks.
n Governor’s representative (Chair)
n Idaho Department of Lands
n U.S. Forest Service Northern Region 1
n U.S. Forest Service Intermountain Region 4
n Natural Resources Conservation Service
n County commissioner
n Large forest manufacturing representative
n Small forest manufacturing representative
n Industrial forest landowner representative
n Family forest landowner representative
n Idaho Lands Resource Coordinating Council representative
n Idaho Forest Restoration Partnership representative
n Conservation non-governmental organization representative
The group also may draw on technical expertise from temporary ad hoc members as needed.
The Shared Stewardship initiative builds on the success of the State of Idaho’s four-year-old Good Neighbor Authority program in which the IDL shares in implementing land management projects on national forests.
“The State of Idaho and the Forest Service will work in partnership to restore forest health in these priority landscapes using all available tools,” Intermountain Region Forester Nora Rasure said. “We are setting these priorities together while combining our mutual skills and assets to achieve cross-boundary outcomes desired by all.”
“Advances in mapping technologies, remote sensing, and fire simulation tools enable land managers to evaluate the most desirable locations for projects,” Northern Region Forester Leanne Marten said. “These tools for scenario investment planning give stakeholders the science-based capacity to find opportunities for lasting improvements in forest conditions.”
“We must demonstrate in Idaho that we can target our investments, roll up our sleeves and work together to improve the resilience of our forests and our communities,” IDL Director Dustin Miller said. “This is good government – federal, state, and local governments and citizen forest collaborative groups pulling together to improve forest conditions and reduce fires near communities.”