Idaho Class I Streamside Tree Retention Rule or the “Shade Rule”

For more than ten years the Idaho Forest Practices Act Advisory Committee (FPAAC) has been working to develop a new Class I Tree Retention rule.  The process began when the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ) first recommended that FPAAC and the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) needed to address some potential shortcomings in the current rule.  The findings of IDEQ were presented to FPAAC in 2000 and 2004 following quadrennial water quality audits.  More than ten years have been devoted to finding and evaluating possible protective measures to replace or modernize the standards in the existing rule.

Class I streams are defined as being fish-bearing or used for domestic water use, therefore, the level of protection is considerably higher.  Shade over a stream is considered important in Idaho because many of our fish species require cool water temperatures to survive and shade is associated with cooler water temperatures.  Additionally, it is considered beneficial for streams to have trees occasionally fall into or across the stream to provide large woody debris for structure and nutrient cycling.  The new rule was designed to better provide for both shade and large woody debris recruitment.  FPAAC decided to express and measure streamside tree density with Relative Stocking in part because it is already being used as an accepted measure of shade in riparian environments.  Relative Stocking (RS) is a more robust measurement than traditional density measurements such as trees per acre and basal area in that it considers density, size, and site productivity.

In 2012, IDL began the rulemaking process that included input from the public and many statewide stakeholder groups.  Through this process a rule was created, based on scientifically sound principles, using actual Idaho forest stand data.  The rule contains stocking requirements that provide the necessary threshold of shade to protect streams and assure large woody debris recruitment for stream structure.  The rule provides two management options for landowners to choose from, offering a level of flexibility that is unique to Idaho.  Additionally, the rule creates two zones within the Stream Protection Zone (SPZ) of the Class I stream, an inner and an outer zone.  The purpose of creating two zones within the SPZ is to provide greater protection to trees closer to the stream and therefore of greater importance to the stream for both shade and large woody debris recruitment.

Relative Stocking, expressed as a percentage, shows the extent to which trees utilize a plot of forestland.  Simply stated, Relative Stocking is essentially the percentage of stocking that a stand is currently at relative to that stand’s capacity.  So a stand at 60% relative stocking is at about 60% of its capacity of trees.  This point is when stands are generally considered fully stocked and land managers begin to consider harvesting.  Because there is a substantial difference in the carrying capacity of forestlands in Idaho, five forest types were identified to stratify the state.  Each of these forest types represents several habitats that exist on the landscape and dryer less productive sites have different tree retention requirements than wetter more productive sites.

IDL is busy developing the tools and resources necessary to help landowners and industry professionals implement the new rule on the ground.  These tools will include spreadsheets and worksheets for calculating RS on the ground as well as a Forester’s Forum publication explaining the rule and how to implement it on the ground.  The IDL is also restoring three full-time Private Forestry Specialist positions to help landowners and operators implement the new rule.  Already more than 1,000 people have attended presentations provided by IDL and our partners to introduce the new rule to loggers, landowners, and foresters.

A monitoring program to measure the effectiveness of the new rule is being developed by IDL, the Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ), and the University of Idaho.  The purpose of this monitoring is to provide results to FPAAC about the effectiveness of the new rule so that it can be evaluated in the future and adjustments made as warranted.

The new rule will take effect on July 1, 2014.  We at IDL will strive to help landowners and operators implement this rule.  It is important we show that our integrated rulemaking process has been successfully applied and has resulted in a rule that is implementable and understandable.  It is also important that landowners have the management flexibility to continue to manage their property while providing protection to public resources.

By Archie Gray, CF, Forest Practices Program Manager, Idaho Department of Lands

FEATURED PROFESSIONAL: Casey Clark, Northwest Management, Inc.

Consider Reviving the “King Pine”

Many private landowners are faced with the difficult decision of which tree species to plant on their property.  No matter what your circumstance, planting western white pine could be a feasible option for your property.  Dominant aspect, elevation, regional location, stand objectives/goals, to just mention a few all play a role when deciding which seedling species is most suitable for your site.

During the late 1800’s and up to 1965 white pine, commonly referred to as the “King Pine” served as the flagstaff forest product in the Inland Northwest. Early on, white pine was a critical economic resource and up until 1965 it dominated the timber industry.  The current timber industry’s framework in the Inland Northwest is in part a result of the giant white pine of the 1900s.  Between 1925 and 1934 the average annual white pine harvest was 430 million board feet in the Inland Northwest.  In 1929, the Inland Northwest was producing 43% of the nation’s white pine lumber.  A number of factors led to the downfall of white pine in the mid-1900’s.  However, nothing compared to the devastating affect white pine blister rust had on white pine forests.  By the 1940s, blister rust was an epidemic, leaving millions of white pine trees dead across the region and continuing to spread.

Occasionally in a highly infected white pine forest, an uninfected white pine tree was observed.  A closer look at these survivor white pine trees and with nursery tests, it was concluded that some white pine trees had a natural resistance to blister rust.  Later on seed orchards as the one in Sandpoint, Idaho produced blister rust resistant seed.

The first generation of rust resistant white pine was cloned to create a more resistant second generation.  The second generation seeds were established in three white pine plantations, one in Moscow, ID which is actively managed by Northwest Management, Inc.  Since the establishment of the second generation plantations a third generation has been developed (1986). The second and third generation stocks exhibit the same resistance to blister rust, about 66% resistance.  These 66% blister rust resistant stocks are available from select nurseries for planting.  Private, state and federal landowners successfully establish and manage western white pine plantations all across the Inland Northwest. As of 2010, federal WWP plantations totaled 170,000 acres; state and private plantations totaled 125,000 acres.

The few remaining massive white pines and their natural regeneration are presumed rust resistant due to years of natural selection.  Industry and private landowners alike are encouraged to leave white pine whenever possible to encourage species diversity.  So, why not play it safe and plant a conifer species with less risk involved?  The long and short answer to this question is the unrivaled white pine growing potential and their environmental benefit.  The historic white pine dominant stands have been replaced by Douglas-fir and grand fir, two species much more susceptible to forest diseases and insects.  White pine trees survive 200-500 years, providing a viable seed source, shade for wildlife and fish habitat, and nesting habitat for birds.  Mature white pine are resistant to wildfire and establish well in burned open areas.  White pine does well with drought conditions.  Documentation shows, yields for a 100 year old white pine forest have been recorded at 50,000 board feet per acre, with historic old growth stands reaching volumes in excess of 100,000 board feet per acre. From a forest product standpoint, white pine is light colored, clear, straight grained and easily milled.

There are three silvicultural treatments applied to white pine plantations which produce healthy vigorous trees: (1) establishment of blister rust resistant seedling stock, (2) prune established plantations when necessary, and (3) thin plantations to release sapling sized trees.  White pine does best on sites with 28-60 inches of annual precipitation, with at least partial sunlight.  Establishing a white pine plantation is not as simple as 1, 2 and 3. There are site specific and management requirements a forester could help with.

The massive white pine groves are a thing of the past, but with current blister rust resistant seed stocks and proper management practices, white pine can be revived in the Inland Northwest.

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) gives $276K for Idaho projects

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) awarded $276,584 to Idaho for wildfire restoration efforts as well as habitat enhancement projects and research focused on a declining elk population, the organization said in a press release. “The 2014 grants will positively affect nearly 76,000 acres in Ada, Adams, Bingham, Blaine, Boise, Bonneville, Camas,Clearwater, Elmore, Idaho, Owyhee, Shoshone, Teton and Valley Counties. There is also one project of statewide interest,” RMEF officials said.  “Wildfire decimated huge swaths of Idaho’s landscape over the past year. similar websites This funding includes more than $67,000 that will directly help rehabilitate and restore crucial forest habitat for elk and other wildlife,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “We also made a significant contribution focusing on elk populations in the Clearwater Basin where herds are struggling because of habitat issues and an increasing wolf population.” RMEF volunteers in Idaho raised the project funding through banquets, membership drives and other activities. “Idaho elk country is getting this shot in the arm thanks to the enthusiasm and hard work of our volunteers. Year-in and year-out, they continue to make a difference for elk and other wildlife in their own backyard,” added Allen. Read the rest of the story here. –Idaho Statesman

Understanding the Importance of Certification through the American Tree Farm System® (ATFS)

The American Tree Farm System® (ATFS) is the United States’ oldest family forest certification program. In 1941, ATFS began promoting responsible forest management on our nation’s private forests.  The ATFS works to sustain forests, watershed and healthy wildlife habitats through the power of private stewardship by offering affordable forest certification for family forest landowners in the United States. ATFS has undergone many changes since its beginnings in 1941 and is now internationally recognized as a credible forest certification system. For 70 years, ATFS has enhanced the quality of America’s woodlands by giving forest owners the tools they need to keep forests healthy and productive. register a domain Third party certification through ATFS is one of these important tools and meets strict third-party verification and auditing standards under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Inc. (SFI, Inc.).

ATFS-certified family forests meet eight standards of sustainability and are managed for multiple purposes: water, wildlife, wood and recreation. ATFS is a strong network of woodland owners who share the same core values of hard work, community responsibility and commitment to protecting America’s forest legacy. Family woodland owners with ATFS certified forestland provide multiple public benefits from clean air and water, wildlife, to green jobs and forest products.

There are strict requirements to become a Certified ATFS Inspector.  An ATFS Inspector has the knowledge of natural resource management, has graduated from at least a two year forestry program, and has attended and passed the approved ATFS Inspector training course.

When considering becoming a Tree Farm member in your state there are a few steps to certification that have to be met:

  1. Woodlands must be ten acres or more.
  2. Under management, with a written and implemented plan that accounts for water quality, wildlife habitat, soil conservation, biodiversity, and recreational opportunities as well as production of forest products.
  3. Protected from fire, insects, disease and destructive grazing.
  4. Reforested and harvesting.

Your management plan is a key document for the assessment. Managing forests and sustaining them for the future is both an honor and a responsibility. The American Tree Farm System® asks that the responsibility be taken seriously.

Northwest Management, Inc. has two or more certified ATFS Inspectors in the Moscow, ID, Deer Park, WA and Helena, MT area offices to help you get started on the path to certification.  The Tree Farm sign is the sign of good stewardship. Post your ATFS sign with pride! You have been recognized for your good stewardship and your commitment to sustainability on your woodlands.

The Big Disconnect – Stormwater Runoff and Forest Roads

By: Gregory Bassler, Northwest Management, Inc.

Stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces such as forest roads is often conveyed to waterways by ditches and culverts.  Runoff can carry pollutants (sediments) to streams and other waterbodies.  The issue of whether or not a forest road is a point source for discharge of a pollutant into a waterbody has been an ongoing debate in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals since 2006. Provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill which was recently signed into law, settled the issue by enshrining the “Silvicultural Rule” which exempts most forestry activities from Clean Water Act permitting requirements.  This was a huge win for forest landowners however; landowners are still subject to state-derived Best Management Practices (BMP’s) under the Clean Water Act.

The most effective strategy to keep water clean is to disconnect forest roads from the stream network.  The basic goal is to prevent direct sediment delivery into streams by dispersing runoff onto stable forest areas.  This will filter and settle suspended sediment out of dirty water prior to entering a waterway.  Collecting runoff through inside ditches that drain directly into a stream or wetland must be avoided.

Diverting road water away from streams and wetlands onto stable forest floor can be accomplished in several ways. secure server . One is by using road drainage structures to protect road surfacing and fill slopes, return water to its natural course, reduce velocity and protect discharge points from erosion.  All roads should have surface shape that drains water off the road surface, either crowned, outsloped or insloped.  Where surface water is diverted to the upslope side of the road with crowned and insloped roads, ditches and cross-drains are used.

Use of surface water bars, grade breaks and rolling dips will drain surface water and reduce velocity.  Surface water bars can be installed but are primarily used when a road won’t be used for hauling for an extended period of time.   Rolling dips can be the primary drainage system on forest roads and may be mixed with both outsloped or insloped systems.  Rolling drain dips are normally built into roads where grades do not exceed eight percent.  Construction of rolling dips varies depending on the road surface type, vehicle use, road grade, and surface erosion potential.

The ditch is an important part of the drainage system, and cross-drains (culverts) are needed to allow water to pass below the road profile, from the uphill side to the downhill side, as quickly as possible. Ditches should be at least one foot in depth and should be free of debris such as downed logs or large rocks.  Armoring of ditches with rock and installing rock check dams will reduce ditch-line erosion on steeper grades.  Installation of catch basins and sediment traps are used to collect water and sediment.

Ditch relief culverts are used on crowned or insloped ditched roads. Ditch relief culverts transfer water from a ditch on the uphill side of a road, under the grade, and release it onto a stable area below the road preventing water from crossing the road surface and softening the roadbed. Ditch relief culverts and roadside ditches should be used whenever reliance upon natural drainage will not protect the running surface, cut slopes, or fill slopes.  Rock armoring and placement of slash can be used as energy dissipaters.

Eliminating the connectivity between road surface runoff and stream/waterways is the best approach to maintain water quality.  Forest landowners must be vigilant in their efforts to integrate use of some or all road best management practices and to continually monitor runoff from forest roads.

Gregory Bassler is a forester with Northwest Management, Inc. with over 25 years of expertise in road design and layout.