By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
A record-high 330 million board feet of timber, valued at more than $50 million, was harvested on state endowment trust lands in Idaho in FY2012.
That compares to a typical harvest of 200 million to 300 million board feet a year, with sales of 240 million to 247 million board feet a year, said Idaho State Forester David Groeschl.
This year's harvest was significant, considering it represents about 35 percent of the total annual timber harvested in the state and state-managed forests account for only 5 percent of Idaho's forest, he said.
The record harvest was driven by a combination of factors including market demand, reduced availability of timber from private lands during the downturn in the economy, and a significant amount of state timber under contract, Groeschl said.
The timber market really took a downturn from late 2008 into 2010. The private sector is price sensitive, and a lot curtailed harvesting, he said.
The state Department of Lands continued its volume of sales during that period, with a steady flow being harvested for land management and the sale of raw timber for the market.
The domestic market has been soft, but the overseas market has been strong the last two year, and the industry is seeing an uptick in milling, Groeschl said.
And the department's volume under contract is building. The department typically has 300 million board feet under contract in any given year but currently has 400 million board feet sold, purchased and waiting to be harvested, he said.
There were 78 active timber sales in FY12. Most of the Department of Lands timber harvest comes from forests north of the Clearwater River to the Canadian border.
The bulk of endowment land benefits Idaho's public schools, which are the largest beneficiary of the revenue generated from harvesting timber.
In FY12, all beneficiaries received more than $46 million in financial returns, with nearly $31.3 million dedicated to public schools. About 85 percent of that money generated on endowment lands came from timber sales.
"Idaho's public school children aren't the only ones who benefit from active, responsible management of Idaho's forested endowment trust lands," Land Board Chairman and Gov. Butch Otter said in a press release.
"Active management of state forests leads to healthy lands and reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfires, relieves the tax burden on the hardworking people of this state, and provides jobs for our citizens."
Over the past 50 years, the management of state forests has generated more than $1 billion. Every million board feet of harvested timber supports 13 jobs at $55,000 per year, according to the Department of Lands.