Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sober compromise needed to manage Idaho forests

When it comes to the state’s taking management of our national forests, I think you need to be careful what you wish for. I sympathize with the frustration stemming from the U.S. Forest Service’s blocking access and watching our forests burn; however, it is a broken system. Educated biologists, ecologists, hydrologists, fire and fuel specialists and silviculture professionals come up with a plan but it is usually appealed by radicals who oppose any logging in the national forest.

On the other hand, the state took the word “public” out of the Department of Lands decades ago. They attempt to run it like a corporation to maximize revenue to the endowments (but are not that good at it). The department has gradually become a top-down organization, reducing foresters and increasing bureaucrats in Boise and Coeur d’Alene.

I worked for the department for 33 years and was awarded Forester of the Year for conducting economical all-age forest management (selective logging). I retired early when dictated to that management would be even age, on a 45- to 60-year rotation, with one-size-fits-all forestry.

In a perfect world, organizations like the Clearwater Basin Collaborative would involve reasonable people and debate, make natural resource recommendations based on science and prevent a minority from appealing the process. The state would be run like a B corporation, which allows for intrinsic values like viewsheds, wildlife cover, recreation and multi-age forest stands. The cost to the endowments would be inconsequential and the public could enjoy the land.

Thom Hawkins


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