The Idaho Forest Practices Act

BMPs protect forest resources before, during and after harvest

In 1974, the Idaho Legislature enacted the Idaho Forest Practices Act (FPA) to “assure the continuous growing and harvesting of forest tree species and to protect and maintain the forest soil, air, water resources, wildlife and aquatic habitat.”


Idaho Forest Practices Act Requirements  

  • Reforestation
  • Protection of water and soil resources
  • Protection of wildlife habitat
  • Proper road construction and maintenance
  • Safe slash management
  • Protection of air quality

The Idaho Department of Lands enforces the law and continually monitors forest activities for compliance.  Moreover every four years an independent team audits and recommends continuous improvement of standards. While there are harsh penalties for breaking the law, official ongoing reviews of harvest activities have found few violations.

What are Best Management Practices?  

BMPs are the administrative rules of the IFPA outlining how forest management can be done.   BMPs are standards that focus on maintaining high quality water in forested watersheds and keeping sediment from reaching streams giving forest landowners and the professional forestry community guidelines to follow in practicing good stewardship on our valuable forestland.

How are BMPs Enforced?

BMPs are enforced by the Idaho Department of Lands on state and private lands and by timber sale administrators on federal lands.  Serious or continued failure to comply results in a “notice of violation” which may stop operations and lead to civil or criminal penalties.  Increased training and education of logging operators has reduced the number of landowners not complying with BMPs.

A Dynamic Process Audited Regularly  

The lFPA established a dynamic process for developing and enforcing forest practice rules for state, county and private lands to protect, maintain and enhance Idaho’s natural resources.  BMPs are regularly monitored and improved upon. Additionally, every four years the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality conducts an audit of randomly selected logging jobs across the state as part of Idaho’s commitment to implementing the federal Clean Water Act. The audit team monitors stream temperature, sediment in the stream, shade, bank stability and the number of aquatic fish and invertebrate species to determine if BMPs were effective.

An advisory board of forest landowners, operators, informed citizens and environmental and fisheries experts use this information to recommend rule changes to the State Land Board.  

BMPs in Action


The Idaho Forest Practices Act requires land to be reforested within five years of harvest with a minimum number of seedlings per acre. Some landowners replant within a few months of harvest to speed up the reforestation process.  Landowners plant seedlings grown from seeds collected in a similar climate and elevation and the tree species needed to help them meet their specific management goals. Other landowners rely on wind and birds to disperse tree seeds in a harvested area.  Idaho Department of Lands conducts inspections of replanting to ensure compliance.

Water and soil protection

During and after forest practice operations, stream beds and streamside vegetation is protected and left in the most natural condition possible to maintain water quality and aquatic habitat. To protect the water quality of forested watersheds and downstream water bodies, particularly where fish and domestic water supplies are involved, harvest operations are restricted within a certain distance from the banks.  Protecting these streamsides, known as riparian management areas, keeps sediment from reaching the water and promotes mature forest conditions, including large trees that provide shade and help keep the water cool providing better fish habitat. In addition, standing forests act like a giant water filter, removing impurities from our water supply as it cycles back from the atmosphere into streams, rivers and groundwater for use by humans and wildlife.

For every harvesting operation, foresters must use the logging method and type of equipment adapted to the given slope, landscape and soil properties in order to minimize soil erosion.  Guidelines about landings, skid trails and fire trails are meant to minimize erosion and damage to streams. There are also measures to prevent landslides.

Protection of wildlife habitat

Forest managers are very careful about wildlife. Timber harvests are planned around sensitive mating and calving times and forest managers work with Idaho Fish and Game officials to enhance and protect fish and wildlife habitat.

Proper road construction and maintenance  
Roads are constructed to minimize disturbance and damage to forest productivity, water quality, and fish and wildlife habitat  Once built, foresters must conduct regular preventive maintenance operations or roads. Log hauling is postponed during wet periods if necessary to minimize sediment delivery to streams.  Some logging roads are closed and reseeded following the harvest. This protects soil and reduces disturbance to wildlife.

Safe slash management

Debris and other waste material associated with harvesting is left or placed in such a manner as to protect streams from erosion or blockage and reduce fire hazards.

Protection of air quality

Smoke from prescribed fires can have adverse impacts on ambient air quality or public health. Rules limit stumps, soil, snow and non-woody organic material in slash burns and require that piles are fully cured (dried at least two months) prior to ignition.


Read the 2019 Idaho Forest Practices Year-End Report from the Department of Lands.