UI course will helps new family forest owners ask better questions

Christopher Schnepf, forest educator for University of Idaho Extension in Coeur d'Alene, is offering a course on family forest management.

At the end of the University of Idaho Extension short course, forestry educator Chris Schnepf hopes family forest owners be able to ask better questions about managing their land.

“People are afraid to cut a tree sometimes,” Schnepf said. “That’s understandable, because it’s hard to put them back on the stump.”

The course includes the importance of growing the right species at the right density, Schnepf said.

The six-week short course will be Thursdays from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 25, Nov. 1, 8, 15 and Dec. 6 and 13 at the UI Kootenai County Extension Office, 1808 N. Third St., Coeur d’Alene. Registration fee is $38. Pre-register by Oct. 18 at 208-446-1680.

“We want those questions to be based on good science,” Schnepf said. “A lot of times people have their instincts about their forests based on hearsay. They don’t realize there’s things they have to do actively if they want the forest to continue on a good trajectory or get on a better trajectory.”

The course is “really a great way for people to get a good grounding in forest ecology, silviculture, wildlife management, a whole range of things to help them manage their forest land,” Schnepf said.

In many counties, forest owners must file a forest management plan to receive a reduced property tax rate. The program helps owners write their plan or informs their discussions with a consulting forester.

Schnepf estimates Idaho gains 2,000 to 3,000 new forest owners each year.

“New” can be defined as recently moved to Idaho and purchased rural acreage, or someone who takes over management of the family forest from parents, he said.

A 2016 UI survey of 36,000 family forest owners found that those who participated in the short course were most likely to implement forest land management practices, Schnepf said.

In the Idaho Panhandle, roughly 40 percent of the forest landscape is family forests, Schnepf said.

“Statewide, family forests are only 11 percent,” he said. “But a lot of federal land is low-value trees, tough rocky (terrain) or high-elevation sites. ... Family forests may only be 11 percent of the state’s forest land, but on average, the last 10 years, they’ve provided 25 percent of the volume to mills.”

The course will also be offered in Sandpoint on Wednesday mornings in June and July.

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