Courtesy of The Spokesman-Review, Lewiston, Idaho, published April 23, 2017
Logging is up in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest under the U.S. Forest Service timber program that focuses less on commercial sales and instead sees logs as a byproduct of restoration and efforts to cut the risk of fire.
Last year the forest sold 60 million board feet of timber, compared with nearly 58 million the previous year, the Lewiston Tribune newspaper reported. The average since 1999 has been just under 38 million board feet.
Forest Supervisor Cheryl Probert said more restoration is needed because of insects and disease in the forest, and that means logging volumes could increase in the near future.
“Our harvest is more about ecological processes, and the volume is a byproduct. We are emphasizing restoring species and structural diversity,” Probert said.
Forest officials are using so-called “strike teams” to craft the National Environmental Policy Act documentation required for each timber sale. Forest stewardship officer Scott Godfrey said gathering specialists from multiple forests on the single strike team allows the agency to share expertise. That helps speed the pace of restoration efforts, he said.
Forest officials also are partnering with the Idaho Department of Lands to help the timber program grow. Employees of the Idaho Department of Lands carry out some implementation work on federal timber sales, while the federal agency still designs the projects and carries out the needed environmental analysis and public involvement.
State foresters are able to do things like cruise the timber, lay out the sale, put the timber out for bid and award the logging to a contractor. The state can also oversee the logging.
Profits are then pumped back into the timber program, where they can pay for things like additional environmental analysis.
“We are trying to be efficient and creative in a time of flat or decreasing budgets,” Godfrey said.[…continued]