From the Spokesman Review here.
For four decades, truckloads of logs rolling out of the woods were Bob Boeh’s primary interest in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.
No surprise since his employer, Idaho Forest Group, depends on federal timber sales to help keep five sawmills churning out 2-by-4s.
But Boeh also finds himself pondering old-growth habitat for owls and woodpeckers these days, along with wilderness areas and scenic river designations. He’s part of a collaborative group of timber industry officials and environmentalists searching for common ground. They’re working on the premise that healthy forests support healthy rural economies.
Though loggers and tree huggers are historic adversaries, they’re recognizing that lawsuits and antagonism can result in losing scenarios for both sides.
Controversial timber sales hurt mill workers by generating legal challenges that lead to gridlock. Forest health, meanwhile, suffers when communities lose sawmills, because there are fewer options for thinning dense, fire-prone stands of trees.
“We thought it was time for a paradigm shift,” Boeh said of the collaborative effort. “There’s 2.5 million acres on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, so there’s plenty of opportunities to have a good, suitable timber base, additions to the wilderness system, something for off-road vehicles and snowmobiles and plenty of fishing, hunting and hiking opportunities. .We should all be able to have a portion if we work together. ”
Since January, he’s been meeting weekly with seven other people with an interest in the North Idaho forests, among them wilderness advocates, loggers and wildlife biologists. The grueling sessions produced a 12-page letter to Mary Farnsworth, supervisor of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.
The letter comments on a proposed forest plan revision, which will guide management decisions over the next 10 to 15 years. The letter:
. Supports regular logging operations on 38 percent (900,000 acres) of the forest, including increased certainty of timber harvests.
. Supports new wilderness areas and wild and scenic river designations. The group listed Scotchman Peak, the Mallard-Larkins area and the North Fork of the St. Joe River as areas worthy of protection.
. Recommends better inventories of old growth stands and monitoring of old growth-dependent species, such as pileated woodpeckers, flammulated owls and goshawks.
. Supports leaving buffers of trees and shrubs around streams to shade the water and keep it cool for fish.
“We really think this is monumental . it’s been a heavily litigated forest,” said Liz Johnson-Gebhardt, executive director of the Priest Community Forest Connection, one of the letter’s signers. “All these folks worked really hard to reach a consensus.”