BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Lawmakers have introduced legislation that will for the first time in 16 years raise the assessment private forest owners pay the state to make sure logging is done in a sustainable way and in compliance with Idaho laws.
The House Resources and Conservation Committee on Tuesday unanimously advanced the legislation put forward by the Idaho Department of Lands.
State Forester David Groeschl told the committee that the state is close to running out of money for activities involving the state's Forest Practices Act.
"The dedicated fund where FPA landowners assessments are deposited is critically low and will be depleted in the next fiscal year," he said.
The act is a law created in 1974 intended to promote active forest management and allows the state to offer landowners assistance programs and logging consultation involving best practices for water quality and reforestation. It also includes the state's shade rule, which is intended to keep trees near streams to provide shade and cooler water temperatures for aquatic organisms.
Specifically, the state is asking lawmakers to raise the cap on the assessment, which is set in Idaho code, from 10 cents to 20 cents per acre.
If the cap is raised, state officials say, the Department of Lands later this year will recommend that the five-member Idaho Land Board, comprised of Gov. Brad Little and four other statewide elected officials, raise the assessment to 13 cents an acre.
State officials say economic recovery since 2009 has led to better market conditions and an increase in logging on forest lands inspected under the Forest Practices Act program.
If lawmakers ultimately raise the cap to 20 cents an acre and the Land Board boosts the assessment from 10 cents to 13 cents an acre, the FPA program would see an increase of about $150,000 from private landowner assessments and another $30,000 from the state's forestland.
Combined with additional money from the state's general fund, state officials say the FPA program would have enough money for the next three to five years.