Sage Grouse Recommendation

Senior Regional Fish and Wildlife Scientists Recommend Sage-Grouse Not be Listed as Threatened or Endangered Range-Wide
-News Release, US Fish & Wildlife Service, December 3, 2004

Based on an extensive review of scientific data and analysis, senior regional U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists have recommended that the Service not list the greater sage-grouse as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act across its range, Service Director Steve Williams announced today.

The Service’s regional directors and senior scientists this week completed the written scientific analysis and recommendation, which is currently being finalized by technical staff before being made available to Williams. He will review the recommendation before making a decision on whether to propose the species for listing by December 29.
“Our biologists have conducted a thorough review of the best available scientific information and, in their view, recommend that the greater sage-grouse does not warrant the special protections of the Act across its range,” Williams said.

Williams said the best solution for conserving the greater sage-grouse is for federal agencies and western states to continue to support cooperative efforts to conserve and restore sage-grouse habitat.

“Together we have worked effectively with local governments, tribes, local communities, conservation groups, private landowners and other partners to conserve and restore sagebrush habitat that is vital to sage grouse and many other species,” Williams said. “We must continue — and wherever possible expand — these efforts to achieve measurable, on-the-ground habitat conservation and restoration.”

The Service received three petitions to list the greater sage-grouse range-wide as endangered or threatened. In April 2004, the Service announced that the petitions presented substantial information that listing may be warranted and began a full status review of the greater sage-grouse.

During the status review of the species, the Service is evaluating all the available scientific and commercial information on greater sage-grouse and their habitats, including all information provided by State and Federal agencies and Tribes, as well as information provided through the public comment process. The review of relevant materials includes the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Conservation Assessment of Greater Sage-grouse and Sagebrush Habitats issued in June 2004, which is a compilation of sage-grouse and sagebrush literature and data.

Currently, state fish and wildlife agencies have jurisdiction to manage greater sage-grouse. These agencies and federal agencies are developing conservation plans to address issues such as habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation and to identify opportunities for habitat restoration and enhancement. Current sagebrush habitat is estimated at 100-150 million acres – 54 percent of historic acreage.

The Service is using a structured analysis process to evaluate the factors affecting greater sage-grouse populations and their sagebrush habitats. As part of this process, expert scientists from state and federal agencies and universities participated in a facilitated discussion on the biology and ecology of sage-grouse and sagebrush ecosystem. The scientists were also asked to apply their expert judgment to estimate the extinction risk for greater sage-grouse at various timeframes into the future. However, these scientists were not asked for and did not make recommendations on the listing decision. Their estimates and discussions occurred in the presence of a team of Service senior-level biologists in order to help ensure these biologists were aware of a diverse range of scientific points of view. The outside scientists included experts in greater sage-grouse, plant ecology, rangeland health, and invasive species.

Under the Endangered Species Act, an “endangered” species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range; a “threatened” species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. The ESA directs that the decision to list shall be made “solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data.” Greater sage-grouse are currently estimated to number from 142,000 to 500,000 individuals. Sage-grouse populations declined an average of 3.5 percent per year from 1965 to 1985. Since 1986, however, populations in several states have increased or generally stabilized and the rate of decline from 1986 to 2003 slowed to 0.37 percent annually for the species across its entire range. Greater sage-grouse are currently found in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. They are also found in small populations in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Featured Professional: Vincent P. Corrao, Treating Your Slash After Harvest Activities

Treating Your Slash After Harvest Activities

The States of Idaho and Montana require that the slash created during harvest operations be treated to reduce the hazards associated with increased fuels and wildfire. Treating your slash created during a harvest reduces the chance of wildfire, cleans up the property, and opens up more acres on the property to plant and grow tress. The season to treat your slash is here and the weather is cooperating. Most slash treatments involve burning piles. Slash piles that have been well cured and dry can take some precipitation and should before lighting. Often treatments begin too early before the surrounding forest is damp or wet and the chance of escape is high. Waiting too long to burn piles creates “bone piles” of unburned material. The best burn window is just after some precipitation and before the heavy fall rains or snow moves into the area.

Contact the Idaho Department of Lands or the Department of Natural Resources in Washington and Montana on or before October 20 (Idaho) to get a burn permit required by the states and check the conditions. The staff at Northwest Management, Inc. can also give you an update on burning conditions in your area.

Group Certification for American Tree Farm Ssytem Members -What is it and how will it benefit private forest landowners?

Group Certification for American Tree Farm System Member
What is it and how will it benefit private forest landowners?

The American Tree Farm System (ATFS) has been certifying private forest owners since 1941. All of the certifications of conformance with the American Forest Foundation Standard have been individual certifications. Certifications are done voluntarily using a third party verification process conducted by a volunteer force of professional inspecting foresters. ATFS certification recognizes forest landowners that practice sustainable forestry.

With the increased interest in forest certification by the global forest products industry, customers and other governmental organizations, the ATFS has modernized its standards to become internationally accepted as a credible forest certification option for family forest landowners. The American Forest Foundation (AFF) initiated a process to review and revise the Standards for Certification in 2001. After much revision and public comment, the AFF Standards of Sustainability for Forest Certification, referred to as “The 2004 Standard”, was ratified and implemented beginning this year. ATFS Group Certification is a newly developed third-party auditing process for evaluating groups of landowners and certifying them under a single certificate held by the Group Organization. A Group Organization is the company, corporation, firm, authority or institution comprising the legal entity consisting of qualified forest landowners seeking to be collectively certified to the AFF Standards. The Group Organization can be a few landowners to several hundred landowners. Group Certification allows individual family forest owners to benefit from the many “economies of scale” of being part of a larger group, as well as the services that are provided at a reasonable cost.

Benefits of group certification to the individual group members include improved flow and sharing of information, maintaining market access, improvement of forest management practices, reducing the overall costs of forest certification, and assurance to customers and the public that landowners are practicing sustainable forestry. A number of wood and paper products and buyer’s groups want their purchases of wood to be from sustainably managed forests. The difficulty and costs associated with individual certification under the 2004 Standard has increased significantly. Thus, Group Certification of a large number of forest owners helps address the logistical and cost constraints of certification.

Northwest Management, Inc. personnel Vincent Corrao and Gregory Bassler recently successfully completed the ATFS Group Certification Auditor training course and became ATFS Group Certification Auditors. Northwest Management, Inc. (NMI) can now assist groups of landowners that are interested in Group Certification in two capacities. First, NMI can serve as the Group Certification Body, which is the entity that conducts the independent third-party certification audits of the Group Organization. Second, NMI can serve as the Group Manager for the Group Organization. NMI can serve as either the Group Certification Body or the Group Manager, not both, for a particular group of forest landowners. Certification for private forest landowners is becoming an issue for market access. Several of the local sawmills have become certified either under SFI, FSC or both programs. Purchasing logs from small private forest landowners that aren’t certified is becoming increasing difficult. Proof of sustainable forest management, certification of loggers and compliance with Best Management Practices are important requirements.

If you are interested in individual or group certification to the new 2004 AFF Standard or have any questions on ATFS certification, please contact us at (208) 883-4488.

New Face in MSU Extension Forestry

Featured Professional: New Face in MSU Extension Forestry

Roy Anderson was recently hired by the Montana State University Extension Service as a forest products marketing and wood utilization specialist. He will be developing an extension program focused on forest products marketing and wood utilization issues in Montana. “I anticipate working a lot with non-industrial private landowners and landowner groups,” said Anderson. “The timber sale planning and forest products marketing process is complex and the typical landowner doesn’t have a lot of experience.”

One of Roy’s first projects is writing and publishing Timber Sale Planning and Forest Products Marketing: a Guide for Montana Landowners. Many landowners wonder – do I need a forest management plan? Should I hire a consulting forester? What trees should I cut? Who can cut them? Who will buy them? The publication provides information about these and many other issues facing a landowner who is selling timber. It will be distributed through MSU extension office, Montana’s Forest Stewardship Workshops, and DNRC service forestry offices.

Roy also anticipates developing a one-day workshop that addresses landowners’ forest products marketing issues. Workshop topics might include information about the recent trend toward landowners forming cooperative groups, the costs and benefits of forest certification, dealing with small diameter timber, tax implications associated with timber harvesting, and doing your own cutting and milling. As a workshop program develops and a date is set, look for an announcement in this newsletter or on the MSU extension forestry website (

Roy comes to MSU forestry extension from Oregon State University where he recently completed a PhD in Forest Products Marketing. Prior to that, Roy worked as a log buyer, sold hardwood lumber, and owned his own logging and portable sawmilling business all in his home state of Wisconsin. You can contact Roy at 406-243-2775 or email him at .

Need to Thin? Now is the Time to Sell Your Logs!!

Marketing your logs is about timing and is a volatile experience. As with all the commodities, volatility is the norm…it’s up…it’s down…it’s good…it’s poor. Well, right now and into the first half of the third quarter is the time to get that thinning and management done on your property and sell.

The lumber market hit a 5-year high in May, prompting higher log prices and renewed interest in all sectors of the lumber industry. While Douglas-fir and cedar have remained stable in the past few years, the prices for Douglas-fir have once again risen into the $530 to $550 per thousand board feet (mbf) range with speciality lengths and larger logs being quoted over the $570/mbf price and higher. All species have improved although ponderosa pine has had the weakest showing and the poorest improvement in prices and opportunities. The improved lumber market, mortgage interest rates remaining low, and a stable housing market are all factors contributing to the increased lumber prices.

How long will it last and how high will prices go? Looking at the past, the market is cyclic and appears to peak every 10 to 15 years. In 1979 we saw a peak, again in 1994, and this year will be recorded as a peak as well. Once the log market begins to rise, it generally lasts 3 to 6 quarters before it changes direction. The 1994 peak began in 1993 and maintained good prices through early 1995. After early 1995, the price softened.

If your timberland could use a thinning or clean-up salvage harvest, the market is right now. Thinning is often the most expensive silvicultural operation, but it can contribute the most to the future health and growth of your forest. Many milling operations are now able to accept small logs (4” to 6”+ tops) for fiber and hew logs (small log milling capabilities) at reasonable prices. So now is a good time to “think twice” about your timber management goals and catch the market!!

Featured Professional: Dan Redline, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality

Smoke is a fact of life in the Northern Rockies. Whether from a wildfire, agricultural burn, or a prescribed burn designed to reduce wildfire risk, protect ecosystems or improve wildlife habitat, smoke will affect most of us at some point during the year. There are a number of programs in place with the main objective to minimize smoke impacts from prescribed burning and maintain fire as a necessary management tool. In Idaho, the Idaho/Montana Airshed Group is one organization that has a successful history of minimizing the negative impact of smoke on the public and environment while accomplishing various land management objectives (ID/MT Airshed Group website).

However, the Airshed Group and its members are facing some difficult times ahead due to smoke and air quality. Federal and state land managers are attempting to reintroduce fire into ecosystems where fires have been suppressed for decades. This will result in a significant increase in the number of acres scheduled each year for prescribed burns, i.e. more smoke. At the same time, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reviewing the existing National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter (PM) which are designed to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety. Based on past trends, the review process will produce new standards that are more stringent than the existing standards, i.e. less smoke!

Smoke is composed of particulate matter, gases and water vapor. One of the biggest health concerns comes from particulate matter, especially the fine particles associated with combustion processes. Numerous scientific studies have shown that increases in fine particle pollution are linked to increased health problems including heart and lung diseases. PM is characterized primarily by the size of the particle and smoke particles are primarily in the fine size range.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) monitors for fine PM at various locations in north Idaho. Several years of monitoring have produced a data set that demonstrates that these communities are in compliance with the existing fine PM NAAQS. This is the good news! As most people know, Idaho enjoys relatively clean air throughout the year compared to other parts of the country.

The bad news is that the same air quality data may limit a substantial increase in smoke production from more prescribed burning, especially in the late fall burn season. With state and local fire safety restrictions in place usually until late October, land managers are faced with a fairly short time window to complete their burn plans. Bad years with high fire danger and lots of wildfires can further delay prescribed burns. When the fall burn season does finally ‘open up’, poor weather conditions such as stagnant high-pressure systems or strong inversions can limit burning opportunities, especially for those land managers participating in the smoke management programs. Individuals that do burn under these conditions can contribute to a buildup of smoke that results in hazy conditions with increased PM2.5 concentrations. Without changes in current practices, poor air quality combined with more restrictive standards will create some major obstacles to completing land management goals for increased fire activity.

Alternatives to burning do exist and some of the land managers such as Plum Creek in Montana are employing non-burning techniques to accomplish their goals. While non-thermal disposal and treatment techniques are not applicable to all land management needs and situations, there are opportunities, especially for smaller landowners adjacent to urban areas, to pursue alternatives to burning. Incentives are needed to increase the use of alternative methods to reduce the burden on the airsheds during the late fall. The ‘recreational’ backyard residential burners will need more outreach and public awareness to change from traditional practices. Other options are to limit burning to only certain times of the year when weather and air quality are not limiting factors.

Finding the right combination of economic and social incentives to address this looming problem is a challenge. Working together, we can find the best solutions for Idaho while maintaining healthy forests, healthy communities and protecting public health.

For more information about the Idaho/Montana Airshed Group, go to . For more information about air quality in Idaho, go to

NMI Leads the Way on County and Tribal Fire Mitigation Plans

Northwest Management, Inc. has announced that it has secured County Fire Mitigation contracts for many counties in the West, including nearly half of the land mass of the state of Idaho. The plans are based on guidelines authorized by Congress and the Bush Administration under the National Fire Plan.

As of January 15, 2004, NMI was working on Fire Mitigation Plans for Ada, Adams, Benewah, Canyon, Clearwater, Gem, Idaho, Elmore, Latah, Lewis, Minidoka, Nez Perce, Shoshone, Twin Falls, Valley, Washington Counties in Idaho and Fergus, Judith Basin, Petroleum Counties in Montana. NMI is also developing plans for Fort Belknap (Montana), Duck Valley (Idaho & Nevada), and Wind River (Wyoming) Reservations. In all, NMI has assessed over 31 million acres during the implementation of County and Tribal wildfire mitigation plans

Dr. William Schlosser, head of the GIS Department for NMI is the lead staff on the plans. In developing each plan, Dr. Schlosser uses NMI’s state-of-the-art Geographical Information Systems Laboratory to produce high quality and detailed maps of each county.

“The technology we are using at NMI is state-of-art,” said Dr. Schlosser, “ These tools are allowing us to provide analysis at a level we only dreamed about ten years ago. The science is truly remarkable and it is allowing us to greatly assist these counties and Reservations.”

In each county, a Fire Mitigation Plan Committee is created. The committees are made up of rural and wildland fire districts, land managers, elected officials, and others.

The plans include risk analysis at the community level with predictive models for where fires are likely to ignite and where they are likely to spread rapidly once ignited. Each plan also includes a wildfire risk assessment, mapping, field inspections, interviews, and collaboration with the local committee. NMI staff conducts an analysis of fire prone landscapes and make recommendations for potential treatments. Specific fuel modification activities for homes and structures are proposed as part of the analysis.

NMI also conducts a homeowner’s survey in cooperation with local fire officials. The survey is mailed to randomly selected rural homeowners in the county seeking details about home construction materials, proximity to water sources, and other risk factors surrounding homes. NMI and the planning team will be conducting Public Meetings to discuss preliminary findings and to seek public involvement in the planning process.

John McGee was recently hired by NMI to as a policy analyst to assist on many projects including the fire mitigation plans. Mr. McGee was previously Governor Dirk Kempthorne’s (R-ID) policy advisor on agriculture and public lands issues. “These plans are what we had in mind when we (the states) negotiated with the federal government—local decision making on public lands. I am proud to be on the team that is actually implementing the projects.”