Idaho Roadless Area Recommendations, William E. Schlosser, Ph.D.

By: William E. Schlosser

The Administration invited the states to petition the federal government regarding the management of Inventoried Roadless Areas. In Idaho, Governor Kempthorne has taken up the offer and will submit recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture to be placed in the Federal Register.

Once a state has developed and submitted its petition, and the petition is accepted by the Secretary, the Forest Service will work with the state to develop and publish a subsequent state-specific rulemaking for inventoried roadless areas that addresses management requirements proposed by the state.

The Governor has tasked individual counties to come up with recommendations for the 9.3 million acres of Idaho’s inventoried roadless areas and submit those recommendations to his office by March 1st, 2006. Although four of the ten northern Idaho counties do not have any Inventoried Roadless Areas within their borders, most chose to conduct public meetings and collect public comments about local opinions on the management of these lands. Lewis County, with virtually no Forest Service lands opted not to submit a formal resolution to the Governor.

The documents developed by each of the counties include a summary of each County’s roadless areas, a summary of public comments, and the formal recommendations by the Board of County Commissioners.

The Idaho Department of Lands and each National Forest summarized the proposed management recommendations on each of the Roadless Areas in every county. The Boards of County Commissioners prepared detailed recommendations summarized from the public comments they received. The result was recommendations for the counties, each adopted through a resolution passed by each County Commission.

All of the results were submitted to the Idaho Office of Species Conservation in Boise on March 1, 2006. Governor Kempthorne will submit a petition to the U.S. Agriculture Secretary by the end of the year. An advisory panel will review the petition, and then the Forest Service will begin writing a proposal and take more comments.

The 9.3 million acres of Inventoried Roadless Areas in Idaho are made up of lands proposed through management prescriptions by the Forest Service to be managed in a way consistent with actively managed forestlands, back-country or Roadless forests, or to be proposed to Congress as new Wilderness areas. This process gave the counties an opportunity to express their ideas, concerns and interests in the future management of these areas. Northwest Management, Inc., was one on the firms the Idaho Association of Counties used to collect and summarize the data for the northern Idaho Counties. For more information on the inventoried roadless areas contact the Idaho Office of Species Conservation in Boise or Northwest Management, Inc. in Moscow.

Featured Professional: SFI Implementation Committee of Montana

SFI Implementation Committee of Montana

Guide to Forest Aesthetics

Actively managing forest to insure their health and value often involves road building and commercial logging, both of which can dramatically impact a forest’s visual appearance. Forest aesthetics are visual resource management practices that have been developed to address negative reactions to forest appearance.

What are visually sensitive landscapes?

Visual resource management practices should be applied on visually sensitive forest landscapes. When determining whether a parcel is in a visually sensitive landscape consider the following factors:

  • Distance between the viewer and the harvest area—in the foreground, details such as stumps and slash dominate the view, in the middle ground as distance increases color differences are most noticeable, and finally in the background at long distances harvest size and shape are most notable.
  • Viewer position—a harvest can be screened from view if a viewer is below or even with the harvest. On the other hand, a viewer above a harvest is offered a clear look at the harvest.
  • Topography—in general, the steeper the slope the more visually sensitive the landscape.
  • Duration—the length of time a viewer is exposed to a site.
  • Ephemeral characteristics—temporary charteristics caused by weather or climatic conditions. For example, harvests on southwestern hillsides are well-lit by the sun, where as harvest on northern slopes tend to be shaded and less visible.
  • Stand Structure—any tree removal in even-aged canopy stands will be apparent.

What harvest practices do people approve of, and which ones do they dislike?

Research has shown that the major concerns of the viewing public are:

  • Tree retention—the more standing trees after a harvest, the less the visual impact.
  • Residual material—tree remnants such as tree stumps, snags, limbs, and brush are a major visual concern. Removing residual material, however, may conflict with wildlife objectives, or hamper nutrient cycling.
  • Color contrasts—forests are generally green, whereas harvested areas are likely to be brown or black. The contrasting colors resulting from the harvest are dislike.
  • Shape and location of harvest unit—Square or rectangular harvest units create a greater visual impact than those with more rounded edges. Clearing ridge tops and harvesting “v-shaped” canyons or draws also creates a visual impact that focuses on the harvest area.

Practices that the public likes include:

  • Buffers—a buffer is a strip of trees or other vegetation that screens a harvest area from view. If buffers are used they should be wide enough to effectively screen the harvest area. Thin, wispy buffers give people the notion that something is being hidden from them.
  • Information signs—most people view signs that convey when trees were harvested, planted, thinned, etc. Well placed signs are useful in letting people know that a forest is being tended under a sound stewardship program.

Why don’t people like certain harvest practices?

Research has shown that when people do not like what they see on a landscape, it is because some element of the landscape doesn’t “fit”. Not fitting can be explained in terms of line, form, color, and texture; four elements that can be used to describe a landscape.

  • Lines—an element of the landscape that may include the horizon and tree trunks.
  • Forms—three-dimensional configuration of lines on the landscape, e.g. hills and mountains
  • Colors—a feature that applies to all elements of the landscape. Up close colors are easily distinguishable. At a distance, colors become shades of light and dark.
  • Texture—the relative smoothness of a landscape, e.g. craggy rocks versus relatively smooth forest canopy.

What can be done to mitigate the visual impacts of harvest practices?

Harvesting practices in foreground situation (less than ½ mile between viewer and harvest area) should concentrate on:

  • Replanting with a variety of species
  • Retaining trees in groups
  • Do not pile brush
  • Keep trees with substantial crowns
  • Increasing planting density
  • Avoid high stumps

The SFI Implementation Committee of Montana is made up of SFI program participates and supporters.

Northwest Management, Inc. Montana Area Office Celebrates 5 Years of Operation

NMI’s Montana Area office located in Helena, MT opened in the spring of 2001 and recently completed its 5th year of operation. Gary Ellingson, Montana Area Manager, is often asked to describe the various services NMI provides in Montana. The answer is as diverse as the clientele that NMI serves.

Wildfire hazard mitigation is a significant concern across Montana. NMI has assisted hundreds of individual property owners and several communities with planning and implementation of fuel reduction projects in the wildland urban interface. Fuel reduction methods utilized include hand thinning, mechanical treatment, pruning, chipping, burning and marketing of wood products. Projects are completed in a cost-effective and environmentally sensitive manner. County-wide fuel mitigation plans are prepared utilizing Geographic Information Systems and assistance from skilled staff in the Moscow office. NMI works closely with local, state and federal government officials as well as local community members and rural fire departments to design projects. Should a wildfire occur NMI assists landowners with burn reclamation activities such as timber salvage, erosion control and reforestation.

Timber Sale Administration is also a key service. NMI foresters work with clients to design and implement timber harvests and market wood products. NMI has established a reputation for conducting environmentally sensitive timber harvests on lands held under conservation easements by groups such as The Montana Land Reliance, The Gallatin Valley Land Trust, and the Elk Foundation. A variety of timber harvesting technology, including helicopters is used to achieve the objectives of landowners and maintain conservation values.

Forest Management Planning services are provided to landowners who seek professional advice on how best to manage their forested property. Timber inventory information is utilized to determine timber volume, tree stocking rates and species composition. NMI foresters prepare silvicultural prescriptions that will achieve desired future conditions for individual forest stands. Management plans include detailed maps, recommended projects, schedules and estimated costs and income associated with various forest treatments.

Montana is a vast state and NMI staff walk a lot of it each year while preparing timber sales, completing timber inventories, assessing wildfire hazards, planting trees and burning slash. In the office foresters use technology such as satellite imagery, GPS data and computer models to plan projects and complete cost estimates. This combination of woods sense, technology and education has allowed NMI to become a success in Montana. We look forward to the next 5 years.

Featured Professional: Jim Colla, Northwest Management Inc.

Jim Colla, Northwest Management, Inc.

Grant to Aid Salmon Restoration Efforts

In early 2006, Northwest Management, Inc. applied for and received a grant from the Idaho Office of Species Conservation. For years, a number of public agencies and other interests have collected considerable data related to endangered salmonid species; data such as fish passage barriers, riparian forest stand conditions, in-stream wood, and sediment sources. NMI proposed to consolidate this data into one dataset, then contact the affected landowners to validate or amend any information and to gage their interest in pursuing mitigation projects. Based off this information, projects designed to enhance fish passage, reduce sediment delivery, improve riparian vegetation to meet shade and future large wood recruitment needs, and add in-stream structures would then be proposed for future funding. The project is limited to private family forest and range lands in the Clearwater basin. Many landowners desire to improve conditions for endangered salmonid species, but may be reluctant to seek assistance, or do not have the technical skill or fiscal resources to accomplish these tasks on their own.

The project commenced in March by contacting various state agencies, tribal interests, and conservation districts. Contacts expressed a great deal of support for the project, but the site specific nature of the data request, i.e., where exactly on the stream is this problem, has thus far yielded limited results. Most of the information tended to be either anecdotal, not in an easily retrievable format, or too general to be applied at a specific location. The IDL provided site-specific data that detailed fish barriers and other management problems. This dataset, along with information canvassed from local resource professionals, provided an initial pool of dozens of candidate restoration projects for consideration.

The next step in this process was for NMI’s GIS lab to combine the data with county ownership information to identify affected landowners. With ownerships identified, NMI then made direct contact with affected landowners. In August, approximately 60 letters were sent to landowners seeking their interests in undertaking restoration projects. Fifteen of the landowners contacted expressed interest in the project and requested an on-site assessment by NMI personnel.

NMI personnel determined project type and economic and environmental viability, and confirmed landowner interest. As a result of this effort NMI has identified 16 separate restoration projects on four streams in the Clearwater area. Projects include removal of fish barriers, installation of rocked stream crossings, bank stabilization, riparian fencing, and riparian plantings. With potential projects identified, the last step in this project is to apply for grants to get them installed. Total cost for all these projects is estimated at $50,000. For further information, or if you think you may have a viable restoration project, contact Jim Colla at Northwest Management, Inc.’s Hayden office (208) 772-8554.

Market Alert: Good Prices — Great Forestry

By: Vincent P. Corrao

Landowners have a great opportunity to conduct forestry practices on their properties this fall and winter. The pulp/fiber log prices are hitting a high and providing a great opportunity for landowners to implement thinnings and fuel reduction projects, improve stand stocking and species composition.

The pulp/fiber market fluctuates and during the past 12 years has peaked three times. The peaks occurred in 1995, 1998 and the third peak is happening this quarter in 2006. During these peaks pulp prices have ranges from $36/ton to over $45/ton. When pulp hits these prices ranges, it allows for the efficient removal of many small logs that typically are not economically feasible to remove at the lower prices. Log specifications generally accepted in this market are logs down to a 2.5 inch small end diameter and they are delivered in tree lengths rather than in regular log lengths.

Log markets are volatile and the pulp market in the past generally lasts 3 to 6 months before it softens. We encourage any landowners that have small logs and trees that need to be thinned to try to remove this product while the pulp market is strong.

Today the pulp prices are ranging from $36/ton in the Lewiston/Clarkston area to over $45/ton in Montana. Granger in Lewiston is the major purchaser in the Clearwater region, Smurfit Stone in Missoula, and Ponderay Newsprint Company and Vaagen Brothers in North Idaho and Northeast Washington are all actively buying.

The forestry opportunities are many and include the ability to reduce stocking in your overstocked stands and improve species composition. Thinning these stands will reduce competition and mortality, improve the species mix, increase growth on the residual stems, and reduce the overall fire hazard and fuel loading in these stands. Thinning overstocked stands also improves forest health by reducing the risk to insect and disease occurrences and the silvicultural prescriptions can be tailored to set up the stands for future treatments by selecting the appropriate species for future seed trees, shelterwood, or other regeneration cuts.

Fire and fuel reduction projects generally always focus on removing, grinding or burning the small fiber size logs to reduce the fire danger. Harvesting the small fiber size logs, or cleaning up after a harvest benefits forest health but usually costs the landowner. With the high pulp market, much of the fiber/pulp can be removed at cost or in many cases the landowner will be able to make some income on this product.

Contractors that have the equipment to harvest these stands are at a premium. These highly mechanized operators can remove this product efficiently and do a nice job of cleanup and leave tree selection. If you have overstocked stands to harvest, you may have to coordinate with your neighbors to combine several sales. The larger the sale and the higher the volume, the more cost efficient the contractor can be in removing this product. The larger sales also help cover the move-in/move-out costs when entering the job. These markets tend to peak for a short period and are cyclic. If you have an opportunity to complete some cultural practices this is a good time to move this small material.

If you have stands that need attention, please contact Northwest Management, Inc. at any of our offices. We will work to combine sales and assist in locating a contractor to get your forestry needs completed.

Featured Professional: Ponderay Valley Fibre (PVF) – Vaagen Brothers Lumber Merger

Josh Anderson, Vaagen Brothers Lumber, Inc.

Ponderay Valley Fibre (PVF) — Vaagen Brothers Lumber Merger
What it means to the private landowner

On October 1, 2006, Vaagen Brothers Lumber, Inc. in Colville, WA acquired the Ponderay Valley Fibre (PVF) mill in Usk, WA. This merger was a natural fit and will allow both facilities to be stronger and healthier into the future. The Colville facility has drying and planing capacities that outpace its sawmill’s production. The Usk facility is purely a rough green lumber producer with no dry kilns or planer. Together, the two can produce finished products that include studs, dimension lumber, and specialty products such as machine stress rated lumber, laminated beam stock, and decking. The two mills also produce a large volume of chips, used in the paper making process. This diversification in products is critical in a down lumber market like the one we are currently experiencing.

The two mills are about fifty miles apart and procure small sawlogs and pulp logs from Eastern Washington, North Idaho, and even from parts of Western Montana.

What does this mean to the private landowner? They can now count on a steady and relatively stable market for their small sawlogs and pulp logs.

Some might worry that this merger could lead to reduced competition resulting in a decrease in log prices. So far, we have not found this to be the case. With a number of companies in the region courting private landowners for their small-diameter timber, now is as good a time as ever to realize considerable value for this material while improving the health of your forest.

Has it been six years already?

Brian J. Vrablick, Northwest Management, Inc.

As I look out the window at the gray skies and snow covered ground, it gives me time to reflect on the six years that have passed since the Deer Park Office opened its doors. In June of 2000 I left the security of my government job and walked into the abyss of consulting forestry.

It has been an exciting and educating six years for me, and many of you reading this article are responsible for our success. I want to thank each and every one of you for placing your trust in me and allowing NMI the opportunity to assist you with your forestland.

Many of NMI’s clients are family forest owners and we assist them with the management of their forest. Timber harvest preparation, log marketing, tree marking, and sale administration are important activities for many of you. I often get asked “What else do you do?” We have worked on several different types of projects this year.

Through a public process, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission identified several parcels of land near Riverside and Mt. Spokane State Parks as surplus and not being an integral part of the future park boundaries. Most of these parcels had timber on them and needed to have the timber value determined. NMI performed cruises and valued the timber on each of these surplus parcels. The timber value was used to help set the minimum bid prior to the auction. Many of these parcels have since sold.

The Spokane Tribe of Indians and the Bureau of Reclamation have an agreement to purchase critical wildlife habitat to partially compensate the Tribe for land flooded by Grand Coulee Dam. When parcels of land come on the market, the value of the timber needs to be set by an independent party. We have cruised and completed timber valuations on 11 parcels this year.

With overstocked conditions of many of our federal and state forests, combined with the droughty conditions, we have seen an increasing number of beetle infestations followed by increased fire risk. On DNR-managed land in the State of Washington, traditional large volume timber sales are the priority. DNR foresters do not have the time to set up timber sales on small diameter stands or low volume stands. The legislature appropriated money for a trial period to contract out the timber sale set-up to target these at-risk stands. To date, the Colville office has bid four contracts and NMI was selected on two of these projects. These projects generally involve 1,000 to 1,500 acres of DNR land. After reconnaissance and timber sale boundaries are approved the sales usually comprise 700 to 1,000 acres. These boundaries are flagged and tagged then we GPS roads, stream buffers, lynx corridors, and the unit boundaries to determine acreages. The stands are then cruised to determine timber volume. Finally, we prepare a report addressing the forest health issues, resource concerns, and our recommended silvicultural prescriptions. The DNR then bids these sales out to the mills on a delivered log basis, something we have been doing for years, but DNR has traditionally conducted lump sum sales.

The prognosis for this program continuing is very good. The returns to the trusts have been higher than anticipated after set-up costs, logging, and hauling are subtracted. In addition, stands with forest health issues are being addressed which not only improves the current stand, but more importantly allows the remaining stand to grow for future generations.

These projects and many others have kept us busy this past year. I know there is a new challenge coming tomorrow, but that is what makes our jobs as consulting foresters so exciting. The Deer Park office is excited to meet the challenges of the coming years. If you have any questions or projects to discuss, please call us.

Featured Professional: John McGee, 2007 Idaho Legislative Preview

John McGee, Idaho State Senator

2007 Idaho Legislative Preview

Elections have changed the look of the statehouse, with a new governor taking the helm and some familiar faces leaving the chambers. Though losing a handful of seats in the House of Representatives, the Legislature remains overwhelmingly in Republican hands, which generally means a sensitivity to the needs of the natural resources industry.

Governor Otter has already made several statements about natural resources. Of note was the Governor’s commitment to continue funding efforts to eradicate noxious weeds. Idaho continues to face the plague of noxious weeds infesting our waterways and over 8 million acres of our land mass. The annual cost of that infestation is about $300 million, and right now we are able to treat about 130,000 acres a year.

Gov. Otter’s recommendation is for $6 million to fight noxious weeds, plus $4 million to continue battling the choking effects of Eurasian water milfoil.
The budget for the state of Idaho will likely see smaller increases as a result of Gov. Otter’s emphasis on leaner, more efficient and effective state government. That is reflected in his recommendation for a modest 3.1-percent increase in the base operating budget.

On the heals of major property tax relief provided by the Legislature during a special session last summer, it is expected that a further tax reduction, in the form of a reduction of the tax that citizens pay on the purchase of groceries.

In short, expect a legislative session made up of frugal budget and few major initiatives.

John McGee
Idaho State Senator
January 2007