We harvest because we use forest products every day

Stringent laws and environmental regulations ensure that forest resources are protected during harvest

One major reason we harvest trees is that we all use forest products. Forest resources make up 47% of the total raw materials used in US manufacturing. In fact, each year the average American uses the equivalent of a tree about 100’ tall and 18″ in diameter. It’s a good thing that nearly 100% of a tree can be used to make wood and other forest products.  Trees touch our lives every day through the thousands of forest products we all use.


In Idaho, we harvest over a billion board feet of softwood timber from our forests each year. Softwoods are trees with needle-like or scale-like leaves and most are evergreens. Softwood is suitable for a wide variety of forest products.  It is lightweight and flexible, yet strong. As lumber and plywood, it is easy to saw, plane and nail, making it ideal for home construction. Its long, strong fibers make excellent paper and packaging products.  

FOREST FACT: Trees are harvested in 29 of Idaho’s 44 counties and more than 90% of the timber harvested in Idaho is processed in the state.

When is the Right Time to Harvest? 

There are both economic and scientific reasons to harvest trees.  The decision to harvest may be driven by the market price, financial needs, forest health and fire issues or the desire to create a particular condition such as habitat for fish or wildlife. A landowner’s choice of a harvest and regeneration method is based on a complex evaluation of landowner objectives, economic considerations, regulatory constraints, site characteristics such as terrain, tree species and soil types, and effects on fish, wildlife, aesthetics, and other natural resources.  Harvesting trees may occur multiple times during the decades-long life cycle of a managed forest.

Federal timber harvest declined severely in the early 1990s due to opposing public expectations and litigation.  State “endowment” forests are continually harvested and reforested to provide a steady stream of income for public schools and institutions.

Where Do We Harvest Trees? 

Idaho boasts some of the most productive forests in the world. Stringent state laws and environmental regulations ensure that other forest resources such as water and wildlife are protected through continuous harvesting and reforesting cycles.  The majority of harvests take place in the northern part of the state on private and state lands. Although National Forests contain most of the state’s timberland, National Forest harvests have been reduced 90% over the last 15 years.  Administrative decrees and court cases during the 1990s greatly restricted timber harvest on state and federal forestlands.

What is Restricted From Harvest?  

Seventy percent of National Forests in Idaho are not available for timber harvest and portions of other timberlands are not available due to compliance with state and federal laws, owners’ objectives, terrain and productivity.

Are There Rules For Harvesting Trees?

The Idaho Forest Practices Act was passed by the 1974 Idaho Legislature to assure continuous growing and harvesting of forest trees and to maintain forest soil, air, water, vegetation, wildlife, and aquatic habitat.  The law 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. Harvested sites are audited and the rules are analyzed to determine their effectiveness.  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.


Idaho Forest Practices Year-End Report 2017

Idaho Forest Practice Rules Guidance