What Does Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Mean to You?

Forest products companies that voluntarily choose to meet the SFI standard and become certified have been audited by independent third party auditors.  These auditors review and evaluate every aspect of the company’s operations in regards to their forest management activities.

The SFI standard involves growth and yield analysis, forest regeneration, education and a commitment to managing the forest in a sustainable manner that protects and provides environmental conformance.

How does an SFI audited company affect your?  It means that the certified companies are doing a better job of forest management and environmental protection and that the forest products produced by these companies are coming from a sustainable forest resource.

Has certification made a difference on what is happening on the ground?  Certification has made significant improvements on the activities on the ground, and we will continue to see improvements because the SFI commitment is also a commitment for continual improvement.  More information will be available on forest certification and its significance to the management of our natural resources in the next issue of the Inland Northwest Market Report.

The Burning Question of Our Forests This Year’s “HOT” Topic

William E. Schlosser, Ph.D.
Forester, Northwest Management, Inc.

The forest management issues in the interior west incorporate a variety of topics including insect and disease control, forestland taxes, access, log markets, societal values, and fire management, to name a few. Each of these topics moves into the forefront of discussions and then just as easily moves back out of vogue again. Today, fire management on forestlands is a “hot” topic that has captured the attention not only of the interior west, but the nation as well.

For the first time in history, our nation has embraced a National Fire Plan to address the need to assess, identify, and mitigate potential losses created from unchecked wildland fires that ravage the once remote forestlands of the region. The west has received much of the national attention as raging fires have been played on the evening broadcasts for the country to see “first hand” how Denver, Missoula, Boise, Spokane, or any of a hundred cities, are dealing with wildfire induced casualty loss.

This fiery problem is exacerbated by our nationwide four-decade-exodus from cities to urban areas. The resulting wildland-urban interface has created a logistical nightmare for wildland fire protection agencies and rural fire protection departments to protect homes while attempting to halt the forest fire. These efforts are complicated by houses with no defensible space, driveways that cannot accommodate firefighting equipment, and steep slopes that lead up to the house (with a “grand view”).

In a 10 year plan, the Bush Administration has encouraged the creation of Fire Mitigation Plans, developed at the County and community level. These plans are designed to identify the fire risk in each area, prioritize risk zones, develop and implement mitigation activities so that the potential for casualty loss as a result of a wildfire is averted before the fire is ever ignited.

This year, Northwest Management, Inc., has had the privilege to work with six counties in Idaho, and one Indian Reservation in Montana to develop a new and insightful analysis technique to assess wildfire risks. Our approach integrates geographical information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), and remote sensing (satellite imagery), with on the ground observations, measurements, and predictions of fire behavior. The goal of this investigation is to reduce the potential of casualty loss in the wildland-urban interface where life and property are at risk to wildfires.

Our analysis first evaluates plant cover in the region to identify where forest, shrub, and grass communities are prone to rapid fire spread, such as lodgepole pine, Douglas-fir, or sagebrush, among others. This is done using satellite imagery to analyze cover characteristics. Then, we overlay that information with measurements of where the land is the driest in the summer fire season; those areas which face either southerly or westerly. We remove riparian zones from the target areas to reflect the wetter conditions commonly found in these places. Finally, we combine all of these factors with slope to place the lowest risk factor on flat ground and the highest risk factor on the steepest slopes.

The result of these measurements is mapped with roads, communities, property ownership, and structure locations to identify not only where the highest fire risk areas are located, but where they are closest to homes and communities. This technique, developed by Northwest Management, has been instrumental in identifying where the greatest risks are in each community, where the fires are likely to spread once ignited, and where initial mitigation efforts should be concentrated.

We have combined this information with rural fire districts and wildland fire agencies to identify where fire fighting resources and personnel are in relation to the greatest fire risks.

Samples of these maps are posted on our web site at http://www.Consulting-Foresters.com/ and can be viewed as either a graphic image or as a PDF file. If you are interested in learning more about what Northwest Management, Inc., and our partners are doing with fire mitigation efforts, we welcome you to contact us!

FEATURED PROFESSIONAL: Gary, Zimmer, Forest wildlife Biologist

Are Turkeys Impacting Ruffed Grouse?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions during my tenure as a regional biologist. For those of us who have sought both of these game birds, the answer appears quite easy. Wild turkeys prefer habitats that are more mature and open than the dense forest cover essential to ruffed grouse. As we have often relayed, data clearly show that young-forest habitat has declined across much of the range of ruffed grouse while increases are occurring in mature forest habitat. But there may be more to it than that. Turkeys, for instance, are known to eat a variety of foods including snakes and frogs. Could they eat a grouse chick? Sure, but how often are they available? Young grouse can fly proficiently by the time they are three weeks old. Often when threatened, a brood will flush in all directions and then find cover and hide. This makes them almost impossible for any predator, especially a turkey with its poor sense of smell, to locate.

It is doubtful that these species compete with each other for breeding sites. Drumming male grouse are quite sedentary, occupying a log surrounded by dense cover, while gobblers set up strutting zones in open areas and travel quite frequently. Nesting sites for each species are not very specific with both species using middle-aged or mature stands for nesting. Hens of both species are quite secretive when nesting and try to bring as little attention as possible to the nest site.

A recently completed study by Dr. Bill Palmer, a Florida game bird researcher, also gives us insight into the question of turkeys eating young birds or destroying nests. Dr. Palmer followed the fate of more than 400 quail nests using micro-video cameras and radio-tagged hens to monitor broods. The study area had very high turkey populations of 30 to 60 turkeys per square mile. Not once during the study did the researchers record a turkey destroying a quail nest or record a turkey eating or killing a chick.

Both grouse and turkeys are primarily generalists when it comes to feed, having few limitations throughout most of the year. Winter is probably the most stressful period for both species, with the turkey feeding mostly on acorns and waste grains while ruffed grouse feed on the dormant buds of trees and shrubs. The latter are usually not available to the turkey due to the bird’s large body mass, which would require very stout limbs for support. Infrequent observations have been reported, however, of turkeys “budding” just like their grouse cousins.

 In some areas of the southern portion of the range of the ruffed grouse, though, bud-producing trees and shrubs are uncommon. This forces the grouse to forage on the ground in direct competition with other ground-feeders, including turkeys, for a limited food supply. Nevertheless, this type of competition would be expected to be very localized and should not affect regional ruffed grouse populations.

Dave Neu, a regional biologist for the National Wild Turkey Federation, states “Ruffed grouse and wild turkey are two species that have evolved together for thousands of years and their habitats slightly overlap. There is no documented evidence that either species directly impacts populations of the other.”

From a scientific basis, there is little evidence that the wild turkey is directly leading to declines in ruffed grouse populations. Any impact caused to ruffed grouse populations by turkeys is insignificant compared to the declines in young-forest habitats and the long line of tru predators across the range of the ruffed grouse.

(Gary Zimmer is a regional forest wildlife biologist for the Ruffed Grouse Society.)

GIS, What is it?

GIS is the acronym for a tool referred to as a Geographical Information System. Often used as a buzzword, GIS is a powerful tool now widely used by all disciplines involved with the management of resources.

Simply put, GIS is a system composed of complex and expensive computer equipment, software, data and trained personnel capable of assembling, storing, manipulating, and displaying geographically referenced information. GIS integrates database operations with the unique capability of putting this information onto a map. With this system complex questions can be answered through analysis of multiple map layers.

Recently, due to advances in technology, the cost of GIS has decreased dramatically. The sophisticated GIS software can be used on personal computers, rather than a main frame, which was commonly used for GIS during its infancy. In the past all base map data had to be manually derived by digitizing paper maps, or compiled by organizations that specialized in map data. Today, once the basic map components are acquired, a skilled GIS analyst can query the system to provide answers to complex questions including those related to all the regulations, constraints and public concerns of natural resources.

GIS can work interactively with emergency response systems that notify the law enforcement authorities nearest a crime and also notify the nearest fire response units or emergency help in almost any situation. Many communities and counties are looking at using this new technology to improve their emergency response systems.

Emergency crews can have maps printed immediately to identify the quickest route to the location. GIS also provides timely information on ownership changes and improvements to roads and bridges that are valuable to counties and the services they provide to the public. Updating map information can be done quickly and can be readily available to all users who have access to the system.

Most topographic maps are now digital and can be purchased on CD’s, which allows a person to print the exact location wanted and not the entire USGS topographic map.

Northwest Management, Inc. has the GIS capabilities to map and respond to the complex resource issues that forest owners face in today’s environment. Give us a call. Take a look at our product and let us know if we can provide GIS answers to your questions.

Restoring White Pine – Why Should We Bother?

University of Idaho Publication

In 1883, when the Northern Pacific Railroad made its way through northern Idaho, western white pines dominated the moist, mid-elevation, mixed-species forests of the Inland Northwest between 2,000 and 6,000 feet. These majestic trees often lived to 350 years but could reach the ripe old age of 400 and even 500 years. They were an integral part of the most productive forests in the region, providing habitat for a highly diverse mixture of organisms, from the smallest microbes to lichens, higher plants, and animals.

On good sites, white pines grew to more than 150 feet tall and 36 inches in diameter. (In 1992, the record-holding western white pine in Idaho was 229 feet tall and 78.7 inches in diameter.) Other species, such as western larch, sometime grew as large, but there were many more white pines, often outnumbering the other trees in mature forest stands. Inland Northwestern forests held the promise of riches for a timber industry that by 1900 had virtually exhausted the supply of old-growth eastern white pine in New England and was rapidly depleting it in the Lake States.

By the late 1960s, our white pine forests in the Inland Northwest were nearly gone, decimated by a combination of white pine blister rust disease, high-grading, overcutting, mountain pine beetle attack, and exclusion of stand-replacing fires. Today, at the turn of a new century, only 5 to 10 percent of the original 5 million acres of white pine cover type in the Inland Northwest still carries a significant component of white pine.

Where white pines used to dominate we now find Douglas-fir, grand fir, and hemlock. Douglas-fir and grand fir are susceptible to a much greater variety of insect and disease problems than is white pine; hemlock is more sensitive to drought and decay. The loss of white pine and the shift in forest tree species has resulted in lower productivity in our forests. Whereas mixed white pine stands commonly produced 50,000 board feet per are, the best mixed fir stands of today are projected to average only half that much. Loss of white pine also means less large wood for fish and wildlife habitat and for nutrient cycling, less old growth, and an increasing risk of particularly severe wildfires.

If we want to reverse this dismal picture, we must restore white pine to our Inland Northwest ecosystems. We cannot rely on natural regeneration to do the job because too little of our native white pine remains to provide a reliable seed source. Only an aggressive planting program, using genetically improved, blister rust-resistant stock and appropriate silvicultural techniques, will ensure the “Return of the Giants.”

(For more information on the white pine, contact the University of Idaho, PO Box 442240, Moscow, ID 83844-2240. (208) 885-7982 and ask for Return of the Giants, Station Bulletin 72.)

Maintaining Forest Roads

For most forest landowners roads are considered an asset for forest management. They provide access for recreation, monitoring, timber harvesting equipment, fire suppression and other activities. Spring and early summer are an excellent time of year for landowners to survey their roads to determine where maintenance may be required.

 Did you know roads are the number one source of sediment on forest lands? Most sediment production occurs in the first two or three years after construction.

 Once road cuts and fills have been stabilized with vegetation, sediment production decreases significantly. Established roads can continue to be a source of sediment if they are not maintained properly. Excessive sediment in streams and other water bodies is a form of water pollution.

 Important road features to evaluate are stream crossings, culvert locations and road surface drainage features such as water bars, drain dips and water diverters. If these features are functioning properly sediment production is minimized and road damage from erosion can be prevented.

 Check stream crossings to be sure water draining from road surfaces and ditches does not directly enter the stream. Water should be diverted into stable, vegetated areas that can filter sediments. Check culverts to make sure inlets and outlets have not been blocked with debris or damaged. A blocked culvert can result in road washouts that are expensive to correct and damaging to the environment. Timely removal of debris can prevent this from occurring. Blockage is most likely to occur in conjunction with spring snowmelt or severe rainstorms.

Clean debris from ditches so it is not washed into cross-drain culverts (culverts which pass water from the inside ditch beneath the road to the toe of the fill slope). Ditch debris can block culverts and prevent ditches from draining properly. Check water bars and drain dips to ensure they are functioning properly. If functioning properly, water will be directed off the road surface onto a stable well-vegetated area. One common problem is ruts, which allow water to flow through dips and continue down the road surface. Drain dips, water bars and water diverters may also collect sediment deposits that limit their effectiveness. These problems can sometimes be corrected with a hand shovel. Severe problems might require heavy equipment to reconstruct the drainage feature.

Examine the road surface and fill slopes for signs of erosion such as rills and gullies. The presence of erosion may indicate the road surface lacks proper water drainage and needs grading. Ruts can be another problem. Ruts channel water and prevent proper road surface drainage and increase erosion potential. Ruts can be avoided by preventing motor vehicles from using roads when they are soft. Many forest owners restrict vehicle traffic during “spring breakup” for this reason.

Disturbed soils associated with roads are excellent seedbeds for weeds. Bare soil should be seeded with an appropriate grass mix to limit weed establishment and protect the soil from erosion. Detecting and controlling small weed infestations early can result in significant cost savings.

A professional road inventory can identify road maintenance problems and recommend cost effective maintenance solutions. Road drainage features such as culverts, drain dips and water bars must be properly constructed and maintained to perform effectively. Landowners who observe and correct minor road maintenance problems early can save money, protect water quality and benefit from continued use of their valuable forest road system.

FEATURED PROFESSIONAL: Gordon K. Harnasch, Forester, Kootenai County Assessor’s Office

Is It Time To Change Timber Assessment Options?

The year 2002, marks the second 10-year anniversary of Idaho’s State 1982 Forest Land Taxation Law. Timberland owners of five acres and more, but less than 5000 acres within the State of Idaho, may change their timber designation or category for assessment purposes.

Timberland owners not wishing to change their current timber classification need NOT respond to questionnaires. Their land will continue to be assessed as-is for the next 10-year cycle and/or actively managed.

In accordance to state law, landowners who own timberlands in different counties throughout the state must designate all their timberlands under the same option: All timberlands owned by an individual, corporation, partnership, etc., must be placed in either the Land Productivity (“LP”) or the Bare Land and Yield (“BLY”) option within the state.

Private ownerships, excluding improved sites (homes, shops, outbuildings, public road rights-of-way, etc.) of less than five fully-stocked, treed acres will not qualify for either timber option. Ownership of timberlands within Idaho of 5000 acres and more are designated in the Land Productivity option only.

If timberland owners desire to change from one option to another, they are required to contact the county in which the property lies, and reapply for the new category or option. If no viable management plan is currently in place (based on individual counties), it is mandatory that the timberland owner submits a plan describing silvicultural activities for the parcel through the next commercial harvest.

A landowner may request a change in option beginning January 1, 2002. Submissions of applications and plans are due on or before December 31, 2002. The new option will be effective for the 2003 assessment year.

There are both short-term and long-term ramifications to switching options. Consider the following if you are currently assessed in the Land Productivity option:

  1. Lands can be changed without any recapture taxes or penalties;
  2. Assessed value of lands will drop (by 74% to 62%), depending on productivity:
  3. Once land changes over, any timber harvested will be susceptible to a 3% yield tax and a deferred tax. The deferred tax is collected at the time of the name change or change in use, and/or if parcels should become too small to qualify due to road rights-of-way, home construction, etc.
  4. There are two ways to calculate deferred taxes: (a) Productivity-to Bare Land and Yield; (b) Market Value-to-bare Land and Yield.


LP (-) BLY: Property is sold in entirety or in part and name change occurs. Formula: Productivity per-acre-rate (-) Bare Land and Yield per-acre-rate (X) current levy rate (X) number of years assessed in BLY [maximum of 10 years] (X) number of acres (-) any Yield Tax paid (=) Deferred tax due. For example, $675/Ac.- $179/Ac. X .01300 X 3 Yr. X 9 Ac. – $125 Yield Tax paid = $49.10 Deferred Tax due.

Market (-) BLY: Change in use in all or portion of the ownership and the ownership remains the same. For example: Build a home on BLY acreage; land is platted to residential lots; land is split; a portion sold; portion retained by original owner; and/or now too small to qualify for timber, etc. Formula: Market Value per-acre-rate (-) BLY per-acre-rate (X) current levy rate (X) number of years assessed in BLY [maximum of 10 years] (X) number of acres (-) Yield Tax paid (=) Deferred Tax due.

 Example: $5000/Ac.—$179/Ac. X .01300 X 3 Yr. X 4.99 Ac. (-) $125 Yield Tax paid = $813.22 (Substantially more in this case!) I strongly advise that, if at any time you plan to develop your timberlands into residential properties, do not place them in this category!! This option was set-up to keep timberlands as timberlands.

Consider the following for changing from BLY to LP: (1) A deferred tax will be billed, based on the difference between the LP rate-per-acre and the BLY rate for the number of years lands were assessed as BLY (to the maximum of 10 years); (2) Land assessment rates will go up 74% to 62% , depending on productivity; (3) In 2003, if you harvest, there will be no yield tax billed and no deferred tax due for change in use or sale of property; (4) By the year 2006, the legislature is to consider a new formula (Discounted Cash Flow) to determine LP values, which will ultimately lower them.

If you have questions, call me at (208) 769-4459 ext228 or ext227 (Kootenai County Assessor’s Office).

Taxes – Tips for Forest Landowners

Income from a timber sale is usually a taxable income event. However, a portion of the investment you made in the timberland may be allocated against this income. Your basis must be allocated between land, timber, and other capital improvements. When you sell your timber, you may be able to take a depletion deduction equal to the adjusted basis divided by the total timber volume multiplied by the timber volume sold. Keeping good records including timber cruises, timber valuations, and scale reports is essential for supporting the depletion allowance.

If timber sale proceeds are reported as ordinary income, you can expect to pay much more in taxes than if you report the income as capital gains. In order to qualify for long-term capital gains you must own the property for more than 12 months. If you have to report the income as ordinary income you may be subject to self-employment taxes as well.

If you have planted seedlings on your property this year (2001) check out the reforestation tax credit and 7 year amortization of the cost of the planting. To take advantage of this tax credit you must file during the year that the reforestation expenses were incurred.

There are certain advantages to being an active participant in a trade or business. If you are treating your tree farm or property as a business, and you are materially participating in the business, you may be able to deduct the expenses. These expenses can include property taxes, interest, and other management expenses. This deduction may be deductible against income from any source.

Cost-share assistance may need to be reported as ordinary income. A certain portion or all of the cost-share may be excluded if certain conditions are met. These condition include:
The IRS must approve the cost share program for exclusion (currently FIP, SIP, WRP, EQIP, WHIP and many State programs are approved for exclusion). And the maximum amount excludable is the present value of $2.50 per acre or the present value of 10% of the average income per acre for the last 3 years whichever is greatest. Often if you have harvested in the past 3 years all cost-share monies are excluded.

Planting in a Conservation Reserve Program field results in the CRP payment being treated as ordinary income. Cost-share for planting is also treated as ordinary income; however, the reforestation tax credit amortization now applies.

Casualty loss must be some event that is identifiable, damaging the property, and sudden or unexpected such as a wildfire. Casualty losses cannot exceed the basis less any insurance or compensation received for the loss. The casualty loss may be limited.

Management and maintenance expenses of your timberland can be expensed or capitalized. Generally, you are better off if you can expense these items. You must be an active participant in the management of your property to qualify.

As a landowner you must keep good records of your activities. There are advantages to being an active participant in the management of your property. See your tax advisor to obtain more information concerning these issues.