The forestry program in Utah BLM is new and developing. There are only two foresters state-wide, which does not even meet minimal staffing needs. One forester is in Salt Lake City and serves as the Utah BLM State Lead for forestry. One forester is in Cedar City and is the Zone Forester for six BLM Field Offices (St. George, Cedar City, Fillmore, Richfield, Kanab, and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument). The Cedar City forester is sometimes called upon to assist Field Offices outside of this Zone with forestry / fuels project planning and implementation. There is a need for additional staffing, but budgets do not currently allow for this. Thus the foresters must rely on collateral duty “forestry leads” in each Field Office to help plan and implement projects.
Current program emphasis areas include Stewardship Contracting, market development, and Forest / Woodland Inventory.
Stewardship contracting is new to the federal government, and involves contracting with private firms to obtain resource management work. Contracts include a service component and a product component. The government pays the contractor for the service work, using the product value to offset the costs to the government. Most work to date has revolved around management of pinyon-juniper ecosystems, but work is being done in aspen and riparian areas, and is proposed in ponderosa pine stands. Project objectives typically include wildlife habitat enhancement, fuels reduction, restoration and maintenance of functioning ecosystems, and enhancement of grazing opportunities.
Market development is being done by BLM in conjunction with interagency groups, most notably with the Utah Forest Restoration Partnership Working Group. The group and various sub-groups are exploring new uses for pinyon and juniper woody biomass as well as equipment options for the transport and handling of harvested materials before materials are delivered to a processing facility.
Inventory work is being conducted primarily in southwest Utah at this time to help give BLM managers a better understanding of what forest ecosystems are present on BLM lands, the condition of the various vegetative cover types, and the potential for wood products. Until 2006 Utah BLM had no formal field inventories completed for forest and woodland stands. Formal inventories provide a statistically valid sample of forest and woodland stands.
The foresters also provide support to other program areas during the NEPA process.