U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Vivid images of sagebrush, cows, rocks and dirt may come to mind when you think of the BLM, but you may be surprised to know that BLM also manages forested tracts of land. Each BLM field office determines how the timber is managed and sold based on what they hope to accomplish for specific areas of forests. Private contractors profit from the timber they harvest and simultaneously help the BLM with various resource objectives. Objectives include: reduction of hazardous fuels, enhancement of healthy forests and assistance with aspen rejuvenation.
Forest Lands and Juniper Woodlands
Although the BLM is usually associated with managing rangeland habitats, Idaho’s public lands actually have a lot of trees! Forested areas are classified as either forest lands or woodlands. The major tree species on Idaho’s forest lands are Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine and subalpine fir. Idaho’s woodlands are comprised largely of juniper, with scattered areas of mountain mahogany.
Idaho’s public lands include more than 562,000 acres of forest lands. District land use plans identify 403,000 acres (72%) as available for commercial forest management. Most of the commercial forest lands are located within the Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls Districts, while the Boise and Twin Falls Districts each have smaller portions.
Juniper woodlands cover more than 350,000 acres in Idaho, with the majority located in the Boise District. District land use plans identify 197,000 acres of woodlands (55%) as available for commercial management. The Boise District has about 156,000 acres of the commercial woodlands, while the Twin Falls and Idaho Falls Districts have smaller amounts.
The goals of BLM’s Forestry Program are to improve forest health, reduce the risk of large, catastrophic wildfire, and improve wildlife habitat. To achieve these goals, BLM applies forest management practices that also provide wood products and important economic opportunities for local communities. Current commercial forest management practices include selective thinning of overstocked forests, limited clear-cutting to salvage burned timber, and sales of individual sawlogs. The forestry program includes the sale of products such as fuelwood, post, poles and Christmas trees. Learn more about the forest products in Eastern Idaho.
Healthy Forest Initiative
The Healthy Forest Initiative (HFI) is an important national effort to the intent to reduce the risks severe wildfires pose to people, communities, and the environment. By protecting forests, woodlands, shrublands, and grasslands from unnaturally intensive and destructive fires, HFI helps improve the condition of our public lands, increases firefighter safety, and conserves landscape attributes valued by society. http://www.healthyforests.gov
BLM-Idaho is implementing several projects to accomplish these goals, assisting counties in northern Idaho in preparing risk assessments and mitigation plans that guide efforts to protect communities from wildfire. Local government efforts are complemented by fuels reduction efforts on adjacent BLM-administered lands. The BLM uses prescribed fire and mechanical methods to reduce hazardous fuels on public lands each year.
Through the Healthy Forest Initiative, about 2.5 million board feet of timber are being harvested annually on an average of 8 to 12 individual timber sales. These fuel reduction efforts are concentrated in the wildland-urban interface and contribute to the local economy.
An HFI Example: The Whiskey South Project
A current project that is being designed to achieve HFI goals is the Whiskey South Project, located near Elk City in BLM’s Cottonwood Field Office. The Whiskey South Project will use prescribed fire and selective harvest to thin and reduce extremely dense forests surrounding Elk City. These treatments will reduce the danger that a wildfire could threaten the community. The treatments will also improve wildlife habitat by making elk forage more palatable in a key elk wintering area.