While flipping TV channels recently, I inadvertently landed on C-SPAN2 instead of the March Madness college basketball game I intended to watch. Instead of dunks and three-pointers, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack responded to a Colorado senator’s questions regarding wildfire protection programs. The secretary described national Priority Landscape Areas currently receiving emphasis to reduce wildfire risks and enhance forest health.
Idaho contains two such areas including the Northern Idaho Priority Landscape Area that encompasses southwest Bonner and northwest Kootenai Counties. A similar area exists in southwest Idaho centered around McCall.
Under the leadership of the Idaho Department of Lands and the U.S. Forest Service, the Shared Stewardship approach encourages state, federal, tribal and private landowners to implement treatments that will benefit their lands while also protecting their neighbors’ land. Wildfire and insect outbreaks don’t stop at property lines. That is why it is also called No Boundaries Forestry.
Shared Stewardship partners are actively treating high risk forests in the Southwest Bonner County Focal Area. For example, the Forest Service and Department of Lands are conducting both commercial and non-commercial treatments on their scattered lands near Oldtown and Blanchard. Fuels breaks have been established on state Endowment Lands that border densely populated subdivisions. Timber companies are also thinning overcrowded stands and addressing forest health concerns. Family forest owners are learning of opportunities to implement defensible space and hazardous fuels treatments to protect their homesites. Foresters and fire experts conduct site visits with landowners to prescribe site-specific activities. For family forest owners, the Bonner County Emergency Services Bonfire program and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service offer cost-share assistance to implement practices. Many of these funding opportunities require little to no out-of-pocket costs to the landowner. The Kalispel Tribe will implement treatments on their lands. When combined across the landscape, Shared Stewardship projects will reduce overcrowded conditions and ladder fuels, improve emergency access and provide for a healthier forest.
Inland Forest Management, Inc. is assisting these efforts by working with partners in delivering the Shared Stewardship program to private forest owners.
I’m glad I listened to Secretary Vilsack that evening instead of watching another basketball game.
Bill Love, Certified Forester