Idaho, U.S. Forest Service sign agreement

The state of Idaho and the U.S. Forest Service have signed a shared-service agreement.

Idaho and USDA on Dec. 18 signed a joint “shared stewardship” agreement to carry out strategies for improving forest health across the state.

The Idaho Department of Lands and USDA Forest Service northern and Intermountain regions, along with national forests in Idaho, will identify one pilot landscape in the state’s northern region and one in the south. The agencies will use a large, landscape-scale approach to evaluate recent and upcoming forest restoration projects, communities at risk and what can be done to complement work already planned, IDL said in a news release.

One goal is to do “the right work in the right places at the right scale,” IDL said. As part of the new strategy, IDL and the Forest Service will continue to focus on reducing fuels and wildfire risk to communities, improve forest health and watershed conditions, and support markets to sustain and create jobs.

The Forest Service in recent years has worked with states, under good-neighbor authority, on cross-boundary restoration projects deemed seen as creating broad benefits. Many such projects succeeded locally but not on a larger, landscape-wide basis. These efforts weren’t coordinated and scaled properly as areas experienced larger, more catastrophic wildfires; more damage related to drought as well as insect and disease pressure; higher temperatures and changes in land uses, a summary of the Toward Shared Stewardship Across Landscapes project said in part.

Signing the agreement in Boise were Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, Lt. Gov. and Gov.-elect Brad Little, and USDA Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Jim Hubbard.

Hubbard said Idaho and the Forest Service can get more done by pooling resources and expertise, and making decisions together.

Little said Idaho is “leading the nation in implementing new ways to reduce fire risk in our communities and improve the overall health of our public lands.”

field reporter, SW Idaho and SE Oregon

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