FEATURED PROFESSIONAL: Rob Richardson, Upper Columbia RC&D, Growing Carbon for the Future

Growing Carbon for the Future

Combine one gallon of gasoline with oxygen in an internal combustion engine. The result is approximately 21-pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2). Multiply that by the number of gallons of gasoline burned throughout the world. The outcome is astounding. CO2 emissions have become the greatest contributing factor to global warming worldwide. But thanks to some innovative landowners and a market for environmentally sound products, something is now being done to combat this problem.

Photosynthesis in growing trees and crops is one of the most efficient means by which CO2 is removed from the air. Industry has recognized this fact and, in an effort to clean up its act, has begun purchasing carbon credits from landowners in forms such as newly planted trees. Because CO2 is the most common greenhouse gas responsible for global warming, industries eager to offset their CO2 emissions are eagerly buying carbon credits so they can market their products as environmentally friendly or “Carbon Neutral.”

Currently a number of landowners in the Inland Northwest are in the process of growing 5,000 acres of trees in an effort intended to reduce the affects of CO2 emissions. The Carbon Offset Program has created an entirely new incentive for reforestation. Not only does the sale of carbon credits cover 100% of the planting cost, but most landowners also walk away with extra cash to fund future care and management. In all cases, landowners retain ownership, control and responsibility for their land. The only requirements is that at the end of a specified easement, a predetermined amount of CO2 has been sequestered. If you would like to learn more about the Carbon Offset Program, please contact the Upper Columbia RC&D in Spokane, WA at (509) 353-2187 or contact Northwest Management, Inc. in Moscow, ID at (208) 883-4488.

(Rob Richardson is a forester working on carbon calculations with the Upper Columbia RC&D in Spokane, WA).

Programs Available to Landowners for Improving Wildlife Habitat

John Erixson, Northwest Management, Inc.

Your privately held forest and agricultural lands provide a significant portion of the habitat available for wildlife in your area. Management of your property affects the species and quantity of wildlife that uses the property. If you are so inclined, activities can be directed at improving the habitat for wildlife use and increasing the numbers of species found on your property.

Several government agencies and private groups provide funding or cost share monies for the improvement of the habitat for a particular species or for wildlife in general. Each of the programs may provide technical or financial assistance and they are voluntary on your part. The following few paragraphs will attempt to highlight some of the major programs available for offsetting the cost associated with improving wildlife habitat.

One of the older programs that has previously been discussed in this newsletter is the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) which has a goal to establish long-term vegetation on highly erodible land to improve soil and water. Annual payments are made and up to 50% of the cost of establishing permanent vegetation is shared by the agency. Properties that are usually considered for this program include cropland, crop wetlands, and pasture lands.

Other programs include:

  • Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP)
  • Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP)
  • Wetland Reserve Program (WRP)
  • Habitat Improvement Program (HIP)
  • Idaho Riparian Tax Credit (RTC)
  • Resource Conservation and Rangeland Development Program (RCRDP)

Partners for Wildlife is a program to restore and enhance fish and wildlife habitat. The program is most interested in restoration of the riparian areas, wetlands, and native plants. A 10 to 20 year contract is required to qualify for the up to 50% cost of restoration. This program is offered through the USDI Fish and Wildlife service.

Pheasants Forever is a non-profit conservation group interested in restoring pheasant habitat. The group provides up to 100% of the cost of establishment and maintenance of wildlife habitat. Funding is available from the local chapters of Pheasants Forever. Some other conservation groups similar to Pheasants Forever include the Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, Trout Unlimited, and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Each program provides monies or assistance based on the particular interest of the funding organization. We hope this information is helpful to you as landowners. If you would like additional information on these programs or others please feel free to call us.

FEATURED PROFESSIONAL: Dennis S. Thomas, Northwest Management, Inc., Wildfire Update August 2000

Wildland Fire Update  (August 30, 2000)

The fire situation in north central and southern Idaho is critical with northern Idaho not far behind. Many of Northwest Management, Inc.’s personnel are on the fires in the Inland Northwest. The Montana fires are burning in very dry fuels and many fires have joined together to make one large fire. The Valley Complex, south of Darby, Montana is over 200,000 acres. Several of the fires in Idaho are over 50,000 acres with many in the 3,000 to 5,000 acre size.

Fuel moistures are extremely low with the driest forest conditions seen in 50 years. Wildland fire behavior under these conditions can be erratic and very dangerous carrying through the forest quickly even in light fuels. Wind is a major factor and can change a small dormant fire into a wide spread, fast moving inferno that can damage forest resources and homes. Presently, fire fighting resources are stretched to the maximum and each landowner living in or adjacent to the forest must stay alert to potential fire starts, whether man caused or natural. Heavily traveled roads, camping areas, or lightning activity are areas or situations when landowners should look and smell for smoke. Notify local authorities, Idaho Department of Lands or rural fire districts so that the fire can be caught when it is small, as it becomes increasingly more difficult to control the fire as the heat builds up and the fire spreads.

Landowners can help protect their property by removing needles, branches and firewood around their buildings. Increasing the spacing between trees through thinning, and pruning the lower limbs and branches can reduce the chance of the fire getting into the crowns of the tree, which is the most difficult to control. Having an urban interface plan may help prevent wildfires from threatening your home. For more information contact the Idaho Department of Lands and Northwest Management, Inc. for more ideas on how to protect your property from wildfire.

Cooler weather and a chance of rain may make a difference in the coming weeks.

New Forest Practice Rules in Washington State

Brian J. Vrablick, Northwest Management, Inc.

We have all pictured the perfect piece of forest land. Tall trees, scenic vistas, lots of wildlife, and a big creek full of trout flowing right through the middle. Since March 20 of this year, many forest land owners in Washington State are starting to question whether they still want that creek in the middle of their property.

In 1999, the Washington State Legislature directed the Forest Practices Board to adopt new rules that were consistent with the Forests and Fish Report. This report was developed over two years by representatives of federal, state, and local governments, private landowners, and most of Washington’s tribes.

The goals of the new rules are to:

  • Better protect water quality and fish habitat by identifying fish-bearing streams with more stringent criteria and widening protective stream buffer zones;
  • Revise the requirements for locating and designing roads, bridges, and culverts, and for road maintenance and abandonment plans;
  • Increase environmental reviews for logging, road building, and other forest practices proposed on unstable slopes;
  • Exempt small landowners from new streamside rules and allow them to use the previous rules. The exemption applies to parcels of less than 20 contiguous acres that are owned by individuals who own less than 80 forested acres statewide.

The rules are quite variable depending on the specifics of the streams on your property. The physical characteristics of the stream determine whether it will be called fish bearing, not whether it actually has fish or not. On fish bearing streams a 30 foot no harvest core zone is required on each side of the stream.

The bank full width of the stream and the site class of the land determine the width of the buffers on the inner and outer zones. The inner zone can be either 45 feet or 70 feet wide. The outer zone can be anywhere from zero to 55 feet wide.

The habitat type of the site and the basal area of the existing timber determine whether you will be allowed to cut any trees in the inner zone. If you meet the minimum basal area you must leave the 21 largest trees per acre standing and then you may harvest a portion of the remaining trees.

In addition, if you own less than 500 acres in a DNR Region you will be required to turn in a Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan before you will be approved for a Forest Practices Application. If you own over 500 acres, you have until 2005 to develop your Road Plan.

Northwest Management, Inc. is working with several large and small landowners to meet the requirements of the Forests and Fish Report. Please call if you would like to discuss the details of these new rules and how they may impact your forest land management options.

FEATURED PROFESSIONAL: Charley McKetta, University of Idaho Forest Resources Economist

Pay Attention to Idaho Forest Tax Changes!

Idaho’s 1982 optional productivity tax bill is inconsistent. It declares that standing timber is tax exempt, then mandates a forest value formula assuming every acre has a complete sustained-yield timber inventory. I warned that taxing standing timber lowers land values enough that after the mature timber is liquidated, the shift of forests into rural lots for migrating Californians will continue.

Luckily another error, an inflated interest rate, over-discounts assumed timber incomes. By blind luck, the law’s forest values initially approximated market values of bare land alone. As an unintentional land tax, the productivity tax created stable taxes acceptable to landowners and counties alike.

When Alan Greenspan whipped inflation, Idaho’s formula exploded, pushing the highest assessed values to over $750/acre. Even at 1% tax rates, this reduces after-tax bare land values by $150/acre, easily enough to shift uses. Some forest owners jumped into the alternative bare land and 3% yield tax during the 1992 tax option anniversary. The rest of you could do the same in 2002. But should you?

Whether a land plus yield tax of 3% has a lower dollar impact than the forest productivity tax depends on how soon you’ll harvest and owe 3% of the gross. A consulting forester can help you match your forest plan to your best tax option. One could just cut out under the forest tax system, switch to the yield tax system in 2002, and pay small land taxes thereafter. That’s the law’s perverse incentive, but its not forest stewardship.

The legislature will study solutions until 2006–too late. There are some hints about potential relief. Forest values will decline slowly to 60% of 1999 values by 2005. Its not enough to stop tax switchers, but there is a chance Idaho will eventually follow Oregon’s lead and really exempt standing timber this time.

Sure, forests should pay their fair share of government, but there are few rewards for naively paying more. The media calls the interim fix a forestry tax break. Shifting tax burden to other landowners makes them mad—at you. Ending two decades of tax on what was ruled a tax-exempt asset isn’t really a break, but no one who’s paying more will smile at your relief.

Timber Cruise – Why, When?

John Erixson, Northwest Management, Inc.

Why even consider having your timber cruised? In order to evaluate whether a timber cruise has value to you, a little background information is necessary. Timber cruising is a systematic survey of your forest that provides you with information about the quality and quantity of forest products located on your property. Specifically, a timber cruise involves the measurement of individual trees on the forestland to provide landowners, timber buyers, foresters, and other interested parties with an estimate of the volume located on the parcel.

The reliability of a cruise is dependent on several items. First the accuracy is directly correlated to the experience of the cruiser. A timber cruiser must consider the number of plots necessary for your cruise, the location and spacing of those plots, and what trees to sample. A cruiser must accurately collect tree measurements, including stem diameter, tree height, and other pertinent information. The field data collection is a major part of cruising, but the analysis is equally important. Through the proper application of a statistical analysis a forester can provide a cost efficient estimate of the volume of forest product present on your property.

So… do you need a cruise? It depends on what you know about your timber and your objectives for your property. A good cruise can provide some very valuable information. If you are planning a timber sale—the cruise can

  1. Help to determine your basis for tax purposes,
  2. Help you design your harvest (determine what species to harvest, how much volume, from what part of your property, etc.),
  3. Help you maximize your return from your harvest, and
  4. Help in long-term management planning.

Tax Basis

Who cares about basis? Our friend the IRS does. When selling timber, the IRS considers the gain a capital gain, either short-term or long-term depending on how long you have owned your property. This gain can be offset by the value of the timber when you purchased the property. Your cruise can provide an estimate of the volume and value of the timber at the time you acquired the property, which is important when calculating the gain.

Harvest Plan and Maximizing Return

When planning your timber sale a cruise can provide information concerning the location of certain species on your property, the size classes of your timber, the health of your timber, and how much volume you may want to harvest. This information is used to determine when to sell the specific forest product to get the best price. For instance, you may have an area that has a lot of western larch or perhaps western red cedar that needs thinning, if you know where this timber is and what size it is, you may be able to harvest it to take advantage of a specialty market. Also if the approximate volume per acre is known, it may help in negotiating an appropriate logging cost which may be lower.

Long Term Management Planning

What if you are planning on retaining your property for long-term management? Commercial thinning, pre-commercial thinning, tree planting, and fertilizing are all management options you will want to consider. A cruise can provide you with the information necessary for making these decisions. You can determine which areas need planting and which need thinning. and plan for those expenses at harvest time.

What if you are selling your property? Do you know the value of the standing timber? Without good cruise information, we often see timber and timberland sell for less than its worth.

EPA’s New Water Quality Proposals: Additional Red-Type, higher Costs and More Litigation for Private Landowners

EPA’s New Water Quality Proposals:
Additional Red-Tape, Higher Costs and More Litigation for Private Landowners

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced its intentions to require private forestland owners to get a federal “point source” discharge permit in order to conduct forestry activities on private land. A “point source” is pollution that comes from any identifiable point , i.e. pipes, ditches, sewers, or tunnels. The EPA is attempting to treat timber harvest and road building activities on private land as “point sources” of water pollution under the Clean Water Act.

This proposal will, among other things, 1) eliminate the designation of forestry activities as a “non-point source”; 2) regulate private forestry activities by requiring landowners to obtain point source discharge permits for such practices as harvesting, site-preparation, road construction, thinning, prescribed burning, and pest and fire control, and; 3) open the door for more extensive federal regulation in the future. Under the Clean Water Act, a landowner would be subject to fines of up to $27,500 per day as well as to citizen suits for alleged permit violations.

All this is unnecessary. According to the 1996 EPA National Water Quality Inventory Report, forestry activities are not identified as a leading cause of water pollution. In the 1994 Report, forestry was ranked the lowest of any “source” category tracked by the states. Published state forestry best management practices (BMPs) compliance and effectiveness studies document greater than 85 percent compliance nationwide and a multitude of scientific studies support their effectiveness in protecting water quality.

The comment period on the EPA’s proposed rules ended January 20, 2000. For more information, you can visit EPA’s website at www.epa.gov.

(Stefany Bales is the Communications Program Manager for IFA. IFA has a firm commitment to the business principles that have helped forest products businesses survive and prosper in the intermountain west for a century. Visit their website intforest.org)

Managing Cattle Grazing in Riparian Areas

John Erixson, Northwest Management, Inc.

The definition of a riparian area is the land that is adjacent to water bodies, seeps, and springs where excess water is sufficient to provide for a moister habitat than the surrounding flood plain. This applies to most areas around the creeks and streams that are found in our forest habitats. The question becomes “Can grazing on our forestland be done without negatively impacting the Riparian Zone?”

Because livestock grazing in the riparian zones is controversial to say the least, and past grazing practices have brought a fair amount of negative light to this subject, can we still graze these areas? Water quality, the major concern, can be maintained with managing the grazing within the riparian zones. Managing the livestock that rely upon the riparian area while maintaining the water quality is the key. Looking at what a riparian zones function is may be helpful.

A riparian zone is said to be in properly functioning when:

  1. The vegetation is controlling erosion through the stabilization of the stream bank, shading the stream to reduce water temperature, and filtering sediment;
  2. The vegetation has sufficient root structure to hold the stream banks;
  3. The vegetation has structural diversity.

While considering the functions of the riparian zone, here is a quick look at “Best Management Practices” for grazing within the area.

Managing the timing, frequency, and intensity of livestock use can greatly reduce the negative effects associated with grazing within a riparian zone. Limit the time of year when livestock are using these areas to avoid damage to vegetation and stream banks. Typically avoid grazing in the riparian zone during the early summer and late fall to help avoid stream bank degradation. Also limit the access to the water source especially during wet times of the year. Don’t let your livestock congregate around the surfaces of water. Do things to promote the animal distribution such as salting, fencing, etc. Avoiding high concentrations of feces and urine adjacent to the water source will help to maintain the water quality. If animals must congregate near a water source, leave buffer strips along the stream banks. Under light grazing, generally 15 to 20 foot strips are adequate to filter the nutrients and bacteria. A general rule is the steeper the site, the larger the buffer strip.

Contrary to popular belief, livestock grazing can actually promote the natural regeneration of desirable vegetation and improve overall water quality. Grazing during periods of sprouting can increase the density of vegetation. With the increase density of desirable plant species comes an increase in the use of nutrients left behind during grazing. Increase nutrient use by plants can reduce the overland flow of these nutrients. Grazing plants early in the season and allowing them to seed can lead to an increase number of these desirable plants. Keeping utilization down to less than 65% can help to maintain the vegetation and protect water quality. It is important to note that the percent utilization does vary for each plant species.

This list of guidelines is not all-inclusive, but does provide some generalities for grazing within the riparian zones. Each riparian zone is unique and requires a specific set of practices to maintain or improve its current condition. Implementing “Best Management Practices” can help avoid problems in the future.