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Idaho timber sale plan for state lands in 2018 draws praise from logging firms

UPDATED: Tue., April 18, 2017, 5:04 p.m.

Idaho plans to sell 252 million board-feet of timber on state lands this year, anticipating revenues of $65 million to $85 million for the state’s endowment, which largely benefits public schools. (Idaho Department of Lands)
Idaho plans to sell 252 million board-feet of timber on state lands this year, anticipating revenues of $65 million to $85 million for the state’s endowment, which largely benefits public schools. (Idaho Department of Lands)

BOISE – Idaho’s top elected officials on Tuesday approved a logging plan for state lands next year aimed at selling 252 million board-feet of timber.

The logging is in line with the levels of the past five years and will potentially bring in $65 million to $85 million for the state’s endowment, which largely benefits public schools.

The plan drew praise from North Idaho timber companies.

Logging is the top source of income from Idaho’s endowment trust lands, which raise money for public schools and other state institutions including universities, prisons and state hospitals.

The timber sale plan for fiscal year 2018 is up slightly from this year, in which 247 million board feet were targeted for sale. It now appears, however, the figure will come in closer to 250 million board feet.

“Generally we meet or exceed our sales target,” Jim Elbin, bureau chief for forest management, told the state Land Board on Tuesday morning.

The board, led by Gov. Butch Otter, voted unanimously to endorse the plan.

Idaho Department of Lands officials say the plan is following the forest asset management plan the state approved in 2009. It was designed to harvest timber from state endowment lands at a sustainable, profitable level that can continue each year into perpetuity. That’s done by balancing growth rates, market demands and other factors.

Four North Idaho timber companies submitted letters in support of the plan.

“Stimson is 100 percent in favor of the fiscal year 2018 proposed state timber sale plan,” wrote David Brummer, regional procurement and marketing manager for Stimson Lumber Co. in Coeur d’Alene. “Our business could not succeed if not for the continued management of the state’s endowment lands.”

Tom Biltonen, resource manager for Bennett Lumber in Princeton, wrote that the state’s timber sale program “is a critical component of Bennett Lumber’s supply base and long term viability.”

Greg Danley, resource manager for Empire Lumber in Kamiah, wrote, “We have weathered numerous ups and downs in lumber markets and log supply issues in part due to the IDL’s reliability and certainty in providing a consistent annual timber sale program.”

Idaho’s annual timber sales on state endowment lands have stuck close to a baseline of 247 million board-feet in recent years, though in some years additional sales were offered due to salvage activity after forest fires. Companies that purchase a state timber sale have up to three years to do the logging.

Idaho Forest Group agency resource manager Tim Dougherty wrote, “The Idaho Department of Lands continues to manage their timber lands in an efficient and cost-effective manner generating a continual income to fund Idaho’s school endowment while improving forest health, growth and yield.” He added, “There are many who depend on your timber for their success, and at Idaho Forest Group, we continue to offer any assistance we may to maintain and or possibly increase these levels over time.”

The plan also calls for a two-year pilot program to change the way harvest of cedar poles is conducted on state endowment lands. The department plans to evaluate the pilot project in 2019 before deciding on long-term policies for cedar pole harvests.

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