Idaho’s Working Forests

Keeping the Miracle Useable, Renewable and Beautiful

Forests are a special part of Idaho's landscape. They have flourished since the glaciers retreated after the last Ice Age.

From the moist, cool mountains of the north to the warm, drier landscapes of the south, Idaho's climate and topography provide the ideal conditions for many different types of forests. More than 20 different tree species are found in Idaho and over 40% of the state is covered with forests, mostly evergreen softwood trees...
    Ponderosa pine
    Western White pine
    Lodgepole pine
    Western Larch or tamarack
    Fir and Spruce
    and other soft and hardwood trees

When Lewis and Clark first came to what is now Idaho, the dense, dark forests provided little wildlife to sustain them on their journey. Yet the explorers realized these forests were a valuable resource and used trees for firewood, shelter and even dugout canoes.

As America grew, the demand for natural resources expanded-especially the products from Idaho's forests - lumber for mines, railroad ties, houses, fuel, matches, tools, equipment and many other building materials.

By the time Idaho became our 43rd state, logging camps, mills and timber towns dotted its landscape. Communities sprang up around the forests where pioneer businesses turned trees into useful products that were transported across the country. Idaho's working forests were soon helping build a growing nation.

Today much has changed. Idaho's forest businesses embrace state-of-the art technology inthe forests and mills, fulfilling their commitment to grow with the state and be a vital part of Idaho's future.

The forest industry is working hard to keep Idaho's forests usable, renewable.....and beautiful.
.....managing the forest
.....protecting our environment
.....creating jobs and growing for the future
.....providing top-quality paper and wood products to our nation and the world

Trees are renewable. By using wood and paper products from trees and practicing modern management in the woods, we can sustain our forests, support local economies and keep Idaho's forests beautiful for us all to enjoy.

Scientific advances over time have improved the way we all live and work. Likewise, the science of forestry has made tremendous progress. Our knowledge of forest biology, hydrology and ecology has built a solid foundation for sustainable forest management practices.

People who work in our forests apply these practices every day to minimize their impact on the land, protect wildlife habitat, and sustain water quality to insure that these working forests continue to provide their many benefits to future generations.

Over 1 billion board feet of wood is harvested and milled every year in Idaho by a highly skilled workforce that is committed to safety. They use modern methods and machines that employ science and technology unknown just a few years ago. Technology that also helps make better and more productive use of our forest resources.

Idaho's wood is harvested primarily from working forests owned by timber companies, ranchers, farmers and other citizens and from state forests managed by the Idaho Department of Lands. Nearly three-quarters of the productive "timberlands" in Idaho are found in national forests managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Only a small portion of the overall harvest comes from these lands. Harvest sites are inspected by state foresters to ensure compliance with strict laws that protect water and soil and guarantee that new forests are growing after trees are harvested.

Harvesting trees sustains a vital and important industry in our state. Harvest is also an essential part of good forest management that can improve forest health and keep our forests growing.

Yet many national forests are increasingly unhealthy -- overgrown, crowded and prone to insect and disease outbreaks and large, intense wildfires. In some cases, accumulated forest fuels cause wildfires to burn so hot that the soil is damaged, seriously impacting its ability to sustain trees and increasing the time needed for forest renewal. Over 10 million acres of national forest lands in Idaho are at risk of severe fires. This is three times historic norms. Forest Service managers are taking positive steps to improve forest health but their ability to apply active management on the public lands has been hindered by conflicting laws, complex regulations, reduced budgets and lawsuits.

Unhealthy forests provide fuel for lethal wildfires that threaten watersheds, are costly to fight, put firefighters in grave danger and can spread to neighboring forests. With more and more homes being built in and around forests, the problem of unhealthy forests is compounded.

But not all fires are catastrophic, and some are actually helpful. Controlled fire is one of many forest management tools such as mechanical thinning that can be used to improve forest health and sustainability.

Actively managing our forest resources yields a multitude of benefits -- fishing and hunting, watershed protection, animal and fish habitat, recreation and forest products -- in a way that's both balanced and sustainable.

Working forests fuel Idaho's economy. Wood and paper businesses employ over 15,000 Idahoans. These are good, solid jobs that pay better than many other industries. And these employees pay more than 20 million dollars in state income taxes each year.

With over 2 billion dollars in annual sales, Idaho's wood and paper businesses are one of the state's key economic sectors. Other products such as door and window frames, support trusses, cabinets and molding add millions more to the state's economy in product sales.

State forests are an important funding source for public schools. In the past ten years, timber harvested from state forests contributed over half a billion dollars to state endowment funds, which are dedicated to funding public schools and institutions. And private timberland owners in Idaho pay more than 10 million dollars each year in property taxes that help finance public schools and local governments.

The future for Idaho's forests is bright. Our abundant forests can provide a renewable resource base for new products and technologies that will enhance the state's economy. New products are being developed that make full use of our renewable forest resources. New research is being conducted on using forest bio-mass to meet future energy needs. New technologies have emerged that are clean, computerized and require modern skills. New major capital investments are being made by forest businesses throughout the state to become more efficient and competitive. And new forest-related jobs are expanding the opportunity for Idaho's youth to apply their skills right here in Idaho.

Because our forests are important to us all, the people in Idaho's forest businesses are constantly working to balance the need for high-quality, high-value wood and paper products, to provide good living-wage jobs and to sustain the health and vitality of our forests for future generations. After all, Idaho's forests are a precious resource at the very heart of their business. They're working hard to keep our forests usable, renewable and beautiful.

See the video


Idaho Forest Products Commission
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