By Cameron Rasmusson
A group of North Idaho residents is rallying to prevent a timber sale in the Sunnyside Peninsula proposed for early 2017.
According to an Idaho Fish and Game letter sent out to homeowners in the area, the timber harvest is planned as a land management tool with proceeds from the sale funding regional conservation projects. However, opponents say the harvest will diminish Sunnyside’s woodland vitality.
“We are losing cedars on more marginal habitat throughout the Panhandle. But this old grove is in a unique position to last many, many generations. We have the opportunity to preserve it,” said Ali Hakala, organizer of Friends of Sunnyside Cedars.
According to Idaho Fish and Game Panhandle Regional Supervisor Chip Corsi, the Sunnyside Timber Harvest is the most effective means to manage woodlands in the Sunnyside region due to its landlocked nature, proximity to rural development and lack of public access. He also said that the Sunnyside parcel is common Panhandle habitat, and there’s no evidence or rare or unique species in the area. In a letter to nearby homeowners, he said that the harvest would be conducted with attentive oversight by state biologists and woodland ecology experts.
“With any forest management activity there are both positive and negative impacts to wildlife and vegetation,” Corsi wrote in the letter. “The conservation benefits that IDFG can provide elsewhere outweigh any possible short-term negative impacts of this sale.”
Hakala disagrees and said she has spoken with a variety of experts who support her assessment. She said the sale stands to impact wildlife habitat, the health of remaining trees, fire risk, the likelihood of storm blowdown and sedimentation levels. She is also not satisfied with the data IFG has been able to provide her regarding the amount of similar forestland under its control and believes the project has not been properly analyzed.
“This stand possesses the ideal conditions for longevity, and is stable enough to last at least another 200-300 years, benefiting a variety of species dependent on mature cedar forests,” Hakala said.
A community resident and landowner, Hakala learned of the timber sale when she noticed state workers marking trees near her home. She formed the Friends of Sunnyside Cedars in response to the planned harvest, later testifying at a Nov. 16 Idaho Fish and Game Commission meeting. The group is active on Facebook and plans to continue resisting the timber sale.