Hot Topic – Carbon Credits and Forestland

As energy costs soar and corporate America seeks ways to minimize their carbon footprint, added attention is being paid to the value of forestland as carbon storage.  Through a complicated process, the value and amount of the extra carbon storage is calculated and then sold on the market to companies that release carbon into the atmosphere.  A plethora of firms including Microsoft, Amazon, and Ford Motor Company have participated.  Many forest-related carbon sequestration programs have come and gone over the years.  Most have involved a landowner being paid to delay or minimize timber harvests on their property for a prolonged period (20, 50 or 100 years), required minimum acreage size, and often they involved upfront costs. 

But a new program, NCX (National Capital Exchange), has entered the picture.  This is a unique option because it only requires a one-year commitment, has no acreage minimum and does not involve out-of-pocket money from the landowner.  If a landowner chooses to participate, they must enroll all their ownership in the program, and timber harvesting is permitted; however, compensation may be significantly reduced if you do log.  Landowner payment occurs at the end of the one-year cycle.  Of course, there are many other facets to the NCX program, this is just a brief overview.

Inland Forest Management, Inc. is very engaged in this opportunity and we feel it is a great option to consider for many landowners.  Like many, we have questions about the carbon credit compensation calculation regarding forests, but in terms of benefits to the appropriate landowner, it seems like a no-brainer.  If you are interested in learning more about this program, please feel free to contact our office. 

Mike Wolcott

A Wildfire Summer

Smokey skies, wildfire-driven evacuations, desert-like hot and dry weather – all characteristics of an Inland Northwest summer the last few years. What an unpleasant shift from the “old” days. What the heck is going on? What’s causing this shift in wildfire dynamics? What can landowners do to reduce the risk?

The shift in wildfire dynamics seems to be a consequence of three primary factors:

  1. Changing weather patterns (i.e., climate change). The summer of 2021 was the hottest ever recorded in Spokane, with many other locations throughout the west reporting similar conditions. Accompanying this extreme heat was little to no precipitation, effectively baking the forest landscape. This trend, unfortunately, seems to be the new normal.
  2. Increased forest fuels. After the huge fire of 1910 left a footprint of three million acres burned in the Inland Northwest, wildfire suppression became a high priority for public and private land managers. Extensive resources were invested in this effort, which resulted in a significant reduction in wildfires from historic levels. But, (and this is a big but) in time, limiting wildfire on the landscape allowed for increased fuels, thicker forests, and more debris. This, consequently, has increased fuel load, which has resulted in larger, more intense fires that mock at times futile control efforts and cause unprecedented property damage and loss of life.
  3. More people building in the forest. Compounding this flammable mix has been an uptick in folks building homes within the forest. According to federal figures, home construction within the wildland-urban interface has increased by about 55% since 1990.  Houses and human life are at risk; consequently, significant resources are invested to combat wildfire in these settings.

Forest landowners should employ practices to minimize the chance of wildfire losses. Key practices would include promoting a healthy stand of properly spaced trees, appropriately disposing of slash from logging, and maintaining open roads for access.

To minimize risk to your buildings it is important to maintain “defensible space.” Critical steps to promote defensible space include widely spacing trees, pruning, and removing brush within about 100 feet of your structures. (Increase this distance to 300 feet on steeper slopes.) Don’t stack firewood, or other flammable material, next to your buildings. Keep gutters and roofs clear of debris. And install small-mesh roof vents.

In many areas, there is funding available to cover all, or most, of the costs associated with reducing hazardous fuels. Contact our office for more information about these programs.

Mike Wolcott, ACF, CF

Western White Pine

Our series of native tree species continues with western white pine (Pinus monticola).  Perhaps, because of its ecological and economic importance, we should have featured this important tree earlier.  After all, the Idaho legislature recognized it as our state tree in 1935.

Taxonomists classify western white pine as a “white” or “soft” pine.  By contrast, ponderosa pine is a “yellow” or “hard” pine.  White pine needles are bluish-green, about 3-5 inches long and grow in fascicles (bundles) of five.

White pine occupies a prominent position in Idaho’s moist forest habitat types.  Ecologists call it a seral, or early successional, species.  It prefers direct sunlight and, despite relatively slow juvenile growth, will race western larch for first place to catch the sun as the dominant species in the forest canopy.

Historically, white pine evolved with few forest health concerns. Various needle cast fungi infected juvenile trees resulting in “casting off” of needles in the lower crown; pole blight (a mysterious malady) occasionally caused mortality in pole-sized trees, and, for the most part, the various pine bark beetles only marginally affected white pine.  With few enemies, fast growing white pine accounted for roughly one-third of the species composition in the Inland Empire’s moist, mixed-conifer forests.

All that changed in the early 1900s, however, with the impact of a one-two punch of logging and exposure to an exotic fungal disease.

Logging took off when lumber barons (including John Humbird and Frederick Weyerhaeuser) migrated to the virgin forests of the Northwest following the cut-out/get-out practices in the Midwestern Lake States.  Humbird alone eyed the vast white pine stands surrounding Sandpoint for lumber potential.

The qualities of white pine wood filled several important market niches.  Its soft, smooth grain produced ideal boards for trim and finish applications, and the colorless “vanilla” appearance readily accepted paints and stains.  The soft, smooth grain also made it ideal for wooden matchsticks. Humbird Lumber Company milled and marketed Idaho White Pine lumber while Sommers Brothers Company, Diamond Match and Ohio Match turned-out millions of matchsticks.

The second punch, white pine blister rust, almost KOed this important species.  White pine blister rust infects five-needle pines including eastern, western, whitebark, sugar, and limber pines.  It spreads through an alternate host of plants in the Ribes genus such as gooseberry and wild currants.  While having little effect on these shrubs, it is deadly in white pine.

Over time, this disease threatened to decimate the white pine component in our forests, but, thankfully, after years of selective breeding, foresters now plant seedlings that have a high degree of resistance to blister rust.

Much more can be written about the ecological and economic importance of western white pine, but the wise prose penned over a century ago (see below) sums it up pretty well.



The words “White Pine” are words of charm.  They bring to mind visions of forests illimitable, of lakes as clear and pure as the mountain streams that feed them; of deep, dense and silent woods where the foot of man has hardly trodden.

 Or they bring us under the spell of a mighty industry, the wealth of which has made an empire.  We can see the work in the forest, the gigantic mills and the busy traffic.  We see a happy and prosperous people.  We see, in fact, our own northern Idaho in its prosperity, its beauty and grandeur.

 Introduction to “The White Pine” Student Yearbook

Sandpoint High School 1914

Interesting perspective from a group of students whose family members likely worked in sawmills, the forest or businesses that supported the timber industry.

By the way, sometime after 1914, Sandpoint High School changed the name of its yearbook from “The White Pine” to “The Monticola.”  The species name for western white pine, monticola, translates from Latin to “living in the mountains.”

(TRIVIA ALERT:  The SHS student newspaper, the oldest continually published newspaper in Bonner County, Idaho, is “The Cedar Post.”  Get it?  The Cedar Post.)

-Bill Love, Certified Forester

Family Forestry In These Uncertain Times

Pandemic, Coronavirus, COVID-19  –  Were any of these medical terms on your mind during the fall of 2019 while cutting firewood, pruning trees, or grass seeding roads and trails on your family forestland?  Likely not. But how can you think of much else in 2020?


As the shutdown began in mid-March, forest products manufacturing, including logging, fortunately, met the requirement for essential industries, so there was an upside. While this coincided with spring break-up, forest owners could still plan for timber sales once weather conditions allowed.  And though expectations for log prices appeared generally soft (with some species not even being accepted), at least logs could be sent to the mill.


Contractors still had their crews available for reforestation projects, so trees ordered last fall were planted in the spring.


Our normal retail outlets remained open allowing us to purchase fuel, tools, parts, and other essential items for DIY projects on our forestland.  One day, while standing in the check-out line with fly tying materials in hand at a local retailer, I jokingly remarked to the store manager, “We fly fishers are sure glad that your fly shop is considered an essential business.” She pointed to the customer standing six feet behind me with a cart holding livestock feed and hydraulic fluid and replied, “That’s why we’re open.”  Note to self: On my next trip, I’ll make it a point to purchase chainsaw files and bar oil.


We could not purchase new vehicles or equipment, but the repair shops remained open to keep our reliable old rigs in the woods.


On the downside, educational programs suffered a huge blow.  With less than 10 days warning, the 2020 Family Forest Landowners and Managers Conference had no choice but to cancel.  This annual event attracts 300 participants to Moscow and also serves as the annual meeting for the Idaho Forest Owners Association, the Idaho Tree Farm Program, and the Inland Empire Society of American Foresters.  Plans are underway for the 2021 FFL&MC with no way of predicting if it will be an in-person or virtual event.


COVID-19 restrictions forced the cancellation of many other educational programs and face-to-face activities, but by fall the combined IFOA/Idaho Tree Farm Forest Owners Field Day went off as scheduled, albeit with reduced attendance.


At IFM, we maintained social distancing by scheduling office hours for the foresters.  Even when going to the same destination we traveled in separate vehicles, which created an inconvenience as we lost valuable “windshield” mentoring time for veterans to pass along their wisdom to a couple of our new foresters.  Nonetheless, we were in the woods, every forester’s goal.


Looking back over the last six months of these uncertain times, foresters and forest landowners had boots on the ground – our ground – where social distancing has always been easy.


Be well, be safe, and take care of yourself and your forest,

-Bill Love, Certified Forester

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Recently we began a series of articles exploring the Inland Northwest’s common tree species. In 2018 we highlighted western redcedar and last fall we looked at western larch, two highly regarded species promoted by forest managers.

We now continue our series by taking on grand fir, a tree that, depending on who you talk to, has many wonderful characteristics or is considered to be a disease prone, disrespectful weed.

The good

When considering the positive aspects of grand fir, one is hard pressed to think it could cause any problems.

True to its name, grand fir (Abies grandis in Latin, meaning to rise, grand) is the tallest true fir species. In fact, Idaho’s tallest grand fir, found near the North Fork of the Clearwater River, measures 181 feet tall and 70” DBH. Truly a grand tree!  Idaho’s champion Douglas-fir is noticeably taller, but, then again, it is not a true fir. Causing some confusion, grand fir is also commonly called white fir (because its wood is very light colored) even though true white fir (Abies concolor) grows naturally further south in the Cascade and Rocky Mountain ranges.

Not only does grand fir grow tall, but it does so rapidly. It also grows well even in fairly dense stands, allowing it to produce high yields. In fact, according to Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, it is second only to white pine among species with the highest yield potential.

In addition to fast growth, grand fir has other enviable characteristics. One of the most significant is the seed’s ability to germinate well on both bare soils and the forest floor. Deep initial root penetration then protects the seedlings from dry soil surfaces, giving it more drought resistance. Once established, it can survive and grow well in moderate shade. Only cedar and hemlock are rated higher in shade tolerance. If grand fir happens to become established in a stand where it can’t get enough light to grow, no problem, it can withstand suppression for a century or more and still respond well when released by an open canopy.

In addition to its many favorable botanical characteristics, grand fir offers up valuable forest products. In our region, most of the revenue comes from sales to local mills where it is commonly made into hem-fir lumber, a mixture of true fir and western hemlock that is well suited for general-purpose framing. But because it is not quite as strong or decay resistant as Douglas-fir and western larch, it often brings a slightly lower price. Grand fir’s shape, dark green foliage, needle retention, and wonderful smell make it an ideal Christmas tree. It is also popular as an essential oil. Essence of grand fir is said to “promote well-being and the sensation of deeper breathing.”  Indeed, if you have forest land in Bonner of Boundary County don’t be surprised if someone asks to collect some of your fresh grand fir slash to process into essential oils.

Throughout history, grand fir had many alternative uses including medicinal tea for colds, a salve for minor wounds, and incense to ward off illness. It has even been used to make baby powder, deodorant, and a concoction to prevent balding.

Wow, this tree does everything from bringing in money to preventing baldness! That’s enough to make grand fir sound like a fairly respectable tree. How could it cause angst in anyone? Well, since space for this article is limited, let’s just outline the most significant reasons.

The not so good

Grand fir’s main problem is an overabundance. Since it is vulnerable to wildfire, historically uncontrolled fires effectively limited grand fir’s range and easily kept its numbers in check. But more than a century of fire suppression has, regrettably, given grand fir plenty of opportunity to expand.

At the same time, periodic selective harvesting became popular which resulted in diseases becoming more widespread, especially root disease.  These events opened the forest canopy gradually creating ideal conditions (i.e. just enough light and the precise seed bed) to favor grand fir establishment over other species.

Grand fir’s fast growth and shade tolerance then allowed it to steal growing space from other trees. To add more fuel to the fire (pun intended), weak, immature stands are highly susceptible to snow damage so thickets of stressed and damaged trees quickly developed into a forest prone to wildfire.

To complicate things further, grand fir is a rather site sensitive species, making it less resilient to unusual climate swings. Furthermore, grand fir’s expansion has taken it to marginal sites where it performs poorly. Hard pan soils with a fluctuating water table provide one good example.

Because of this constellation of factors, native insects and diseases that would normally exist within the population in low numbers now have an opportunity to cause severe loss. In our local forests, fir engraver beetle provides one of the best examples. (Damage from this insect can be very apparent because when the insect kills the tree, it often turns bright red. Unfortunately, the color often does not show until the year after attack, when the beetles are already gone. )  This beetle got a really big boost after the severe drought years of 2014 and 2015 and, since it is not uncommon for high levels of beetle activity to continue several years after such an event, we still see the impacts even after a return to healthier precipitation levels.

Grand fir is also very susceptible to tussock moth, spruce budworm, and balsam woolly adelgid which take a significant toll. When damaged by logging, or frost cracks, heart rot may set in allowing the introduction of Indian paint fungus.

Once again, we could go on but the point has been made. Grand fir is a native tree with desirable characteristics that is causing some serious problems. So what can we do?

Management considerations

Here are a few general principles to keep in mind when working with grand fir. Of course, ownership objectives and forest condition ultimately drives specific actions.

  • All cutting prescriptions need to consider their potential to promote grand fir and then strive to favor the development of other species wherever possible.
  • Addressing challenges in stands where grand fir has taken a firm hold can be expensive and time consuming and will likely require repeated entries.
  • Commercial stands with grand fir in them can easily be over-thinned thereby opening the forest too much (with good intentions) and exposing the stand to increased wind damage, potentially accelerating the spread of root disease and favoring conditions for undesirable understory development.
  • In areas with root disease or many declining trees, species conversion may be the best option, i.e. cutting all of the vulnerable species while creating planting areas for seral tree species.
  • Pre-commercial thinning is a useful tool to improve overcrowded stands of younger grand fir and shift species mix in favor of more desirable trees; however, thinning pure grand fir stands where root disease is prevalent can actually increases the rate of spread for this fungus. It is often best to avoid thinning altogether in very active root disease pockets.
  • Check in with a consulting forester or your local Idaho Department of Lands Service Forester to see what management options best suit your stand.

-Steve Bloedel, ACF, Certified Forester

Contracts for Success

A key element to ensure success regarding any forest management activity involving individuals outside your family is the use of a clear, detailed contract. Contracts are critical to convey your desired outcome and protect your welfare. The goal of a contract is to serve as an organ of understanding between a landowner and contractor. It communicates your expectations to the logger in order for him to know what is required of him and how to price his services. A contract provides guidance for a wide range of activities, including:
• Consulting forester engagement
• Logging operations
• Cutting line agreements
• Road building
• Reforestation activities
• Pre-commercial thinning
• Surveying
Well-written contracts minimize conflicts, foster positive relationships, and result in increased satisfaction for both the landowner and the contractor. In addition to the normal boiler plate clauses, most contracts include the following key elements:
• Performance bond
• Insurance requirements, including additional insured
• Project specifications
• Timing
• Payment
Inland Forest Management, Inc. has developed numerous contracts over the years to address the specific needs and protect the interests of our clients. These contracts are an essential component of implementing sound, long-term forest management activities.
Oh, you might have noticed I mentioned contracts being important for forestry activities involving individuals outside your family. Actually, a contract may be the best investment you ever made when your cousin Bob starts logging the back 40!

Please note that this information is not intended to be legal advice. IFM encourages our clients to have documents reviewed by their legal counsel.


-Mike Wolcott, ACF, Certified Forester

But I Had a Contract…

A number of years ago a very unhappy elderly lady approached us concerning a logging operation that had recently occurred on her property. She described her land as a “disaster area” after logging took place – too many trees were cut, slash piles were only partly burned, and many of the remaining trees were damaged.

“Did you have a contract?” was my first question. “Yes,” she replied, “it came from the logger.”

When the brief written “contract” was reviewed there was vague language about the logger applying “good forestry practices” when selecting trees to cut and that the slash clean-up would “meet state requirements.” Well, there’s lots and lots of wiggle room in those two statements, and, unfortunately for that sweet lady, it appeared the logger used the flexibility to his advantage.

The contract was very cavalier in many other aspects, including insurance, timing, pricing, road maintenance, etc., but the lesson here is that it is critical to have a thorough, detailed document that addresses all aspects of a harvest operation.


-Mike Wolcott, ACF, Certified Forester

New Idaho Fire Season Requirements

The Idaho Department of Lands is implementing a new set of logging operation requirements for the upcoming (2019) fire season. They are as follows:

  1. 1. From July 1 through September 30, logging operations using a cable system or feller-buncher must have on-site a 200-gallon water tank and specified accessories.

  2. 2. During Stage II Fire Restrictions (Hoot Owl), there is a three-hour fire watch requirement.

  3. 3. Also there are additional requirements for cable logging and a change in on-site fire tools.

A Long Days’ Night

A number of years ago, long before the convenience of cell phones, Dick Bradetich and I (partners in Inland Forest Management, Inc.) were under the gun to complete a forest inventory project.  With the deadline quickly approaching, we left before the first wink of sunrise very early one morning for the arduous two-hour drive to the project area.  I was the designated driver.

Upon arriving at the work-site, we studied the maps and developed a plan of attack over steep, rugged terrain.  After gathering our gear, we headed into the woods for a long day’s work.

As planned, we rendezvoused at the truck at dusk, ready to get on the road and home to a hot shower. But to our dismay, the truck would not even turn over. The battery was dead. Apparently I had left the headlights on.  But, since the truck was parked on an incline, we optimistically believed a little shove down the hill would quickly get it running.  No dice! The battery was so dead it didn’t seem to matter how hard or how far we pushed, it was not going to start.  We quickly realized that it would be impossible to push the truck back up the hill, but we could walk up the hill to reach the main road, which, though somewhat isolated, held hope of help from a passing vehicle.

As we started our journey we were optimistic that a vehicle would soon come by.  Yet, as Dick and I continued our walk, our optimism faded with each step and each hour.  Not a vehicle had been seen or heard, so we continued to walk, and walk, and walk!

Finally, after about five hours, we heard voices off in the distance.  As the voices got closer and louder, we realized it was a teenage party.  We were aware of a favorite party spot for kids along a nearby river, and surmised that this was the source of the revelry.  Eventually we came to an intersection where a quarter mile to the left was the party site, and to the right was the town of Clark Fork, two miles away.  After a brief debate, we figured it would be best to continue on toward Clark Fork.

After walking another quarter mile we heard a pickup truck approaching from behind.  As it came closer, we heard boisterous hoots and hollers, clearly indicating happy party attendees.  The friendly driver stopped to ask if we needed a ride.  We quickly evaluated the situation – a glassy-eyed, likely impaired, fun-loving driver accompanied by a contingent of like-minded friends – and decided we’d take our chances walking.

So the journey continued.

Totally exhausted, we finally arrived at our destination of Clark Fork.  Our primary motivator for the long trek had been the thought of a cold adult beverage at the Clark Fork Bar. But to add insult to injury after a grueling ordeal, this too was a disappointment. When we finally got to the bar it was 2:05 a.m., five minutes after closing.  If we weren’t so dang tired, we would have cried.

Thank goodness a payphone was nearby, so Dick called his wife, Karen, for a ride home.  When Karen answered the phone she noted the time of 2:10 a.m., just after bar closing time.  In spite of her suspicion that we had concocted a “whopper” cover story for a fun night on the town, thankfully, she came to our rescue.

The next day when Dick and his family retrieved the truck, they determined we had walked 20 miles!

Embarrassingly for me, unfortunately about five months later a similar situation occurred.  Again, arriving at the work site in dark and snowy conditions, I inadvertently neglected to turn off the map light.  Naturally, when we returned to the truck we found a dead battery. Luckily, this time we had walked only a few miles before a passing vehicle saved us.

Miraculously, after 30 years, Dick continued to be my partner. Perhaps the invention of the “lights-on” warning buzzer had something to do with that.


—-Mike Wolcott, ACF, Certified Forester


Mother Nature’s Towers with Solar Panels Part Two — The Solar Panels

A past issue of Tree Talk (Spring 2018) quoted an anecdote by Professor Jay O’Laughlin, retired director of the College of Natural Resource’s Policy Analysis Group at the University of Idaho, in which he described a tree as “Mother Nature’s Towers with Solar Panels.”  Our first article focused on the components of the wooden tower which foresters call the trunk, bole or stem of a tree.  Now let’s take a closer look at the tree’s solar panels – it’s leaves or needles.  To understand their importance requires a basic explanation of photosynthesis and the photosynthetic process.

With Greek derivation, photosynthesis means “putting together with light.”  Very simply stated, this process combines water, carbon dioxide, sunlight and chlorophyll to produce glucose, a sugar that provides energy for the tree to grow while giving off oxygen as a byproduct.  An oversimplified chemical formula looks like this:

Carbon Dioxide + Water + Sunlight = Glucose + Oxygen

A tree absorbs water through its roots, which along with dissolved minerals, is transported through the xylem in the bole of the tree to the branches and leaves/needles.  Also called sapwood, the xylem is the waterworks of the “tower.”  Stomata, tiny pores in the surface of the leaf, allow carbon dioxide in and oxygen out in a process called transpiration.  Chloroplast cells, containing a green pigment called chlorophyll, collect sunlight that energizes the photosynthetic process.   The magic of Mother Nature has now transformed a simple-looking leaf into a complex solar panel that produces the sugar needed for growth throughout the tree.

Vern Bromgard, retired district conservationist with the USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service, liked to use common sense, down-to-earth explanations when describing complex biological processes or conservation practices.  He often told forest landowners, “The leaves are the factory of the tree.   The more leaves, the better the tree will be growing.”

With this explanation of photosynthesis, you can now see why foresters place such a high importance on the live crown ratio – the percentage of a tree’s foliage to its total height.

After all, the more solar panels attached to the tower, the more productively the factory will produce glucose.  As Professor O’Laughlin summed it up in his presentation, “we call them trees.”

— Bill Love, Certified Forester