Idaho snowpack

February storms boosted the snowpack in Idaho forests.

Late winter's big snowfalls provided much-needed moisture for Idaho's forests, says an expert.

"Most people didn't enjoy it too much but thank God for February,"  said Chris Schnepf, University of Idaho Extension area educator on forestry. "We were really looking at some really small snowpacks out in the mountains."

Mountain moisture levels are now in the 90% range or higher compared to average, Schnepf said.

"Increasingly, you can get very good snow pack, but that doesn't mean you aren't going to have drought stress at the end of summer," he said. "You can have more total precipitation for the year, but if the growing seasons are longer and the precip falls ... between winter and spring, that's something to watch for."

Otherwise, it was a relatively uneventful winter for forest health, Schnepf said.

Western pine beetle populations began to increase last fall, and may continue, mostly in mid- to lower-elevation Ponderosa pines.

A new pine engraver beetle, fivespined ips, is beginning to appear in Idaho. It is similar to native pine engraver species, Schnepf said.

Schnepf said the industry is about due for another round of defoliating insects such as Tussock moths, which typically occur on a 10-year cycle. He hasn't heard of anyone seeing signs of them just yet.

UI Extension forestry programs coming up include: 

• A tree planting workshop 1 to 5 p.m. April 6 in Plummer.

"The bigger need is thinning and pruning, but there's still times when you want to consider planting," Schnepf said.

Planting trees is a good option after a timber harvest, establishing new species or for marginal ground, he said.

It typically takes roughly 30 years from seeding to harvest, Schnepf said. On a really good site, it can take as few as 20 years.

"A lot of private landowners, the trees they plant aren't something they're going to harvest in their lifetime anyway," he said. "They do it because they want to get their forests on a better trajectory or state forest practice laws require adequate reforestation after a timber harvest."

To receive reduced property tax rates for forest management in Idaho, a landowner must demonstrate active management, Schnepf said.

Schnepf advises forest owners to think about which tree species and density are most sustainable in the long term for their land. Pine and larch tend to be most drought-tolerant on sites where appropriate, he said.

Cost is $15. For registration questions, contact the University of Idaho Extension Office in Benewah County (208-245-2422)

• Logger Education to Advance Professionalism (LEAP): April 9-11 in Moscow and April 16-18 in Coeur d'Alene.

The program includes two days indoors and one day of field exercises on forest biology, ecology, silviculture and forest water quality.

"A lot of guys, in the process of working in the woods, get a fair amount of exposure to forestry, but often they don't get the complete picture," Schnepf said. 

Some mills require LEAP as part of their criteria for forest product certification, Schnepf said.

The program has maxed out in recent years at between 60 and 80 participants.

Cost is $75. 

For registration questions for Moscow, contact Randy Brooks at 208-885-3556. For Coeur d'Alene, contact the UI Extension office in Kootenai County at 208-446-1680.

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