Shared Stewardship program targets North Idaho

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

The U.S. Forest Service and Idaho Department of Lands have identified a large portion of North Idaho as high fire risk, making it one of two “priority landscapes” where officials will implement new statewide Shared Stewardship practices.

The red boundaries indicate “priority landscapes” determined as part of the governor’s Shared Stewardship fire management program. Map courtesy of the Idaho Department of Lands.

The governor’s office characterizes Shared Stewardship as a program “where federal, state and private land management activities will align to reduce wildfire risk to communities, create and sustain jobs, and improve the health of Idaho’s forests and watersheds.” 

Governor Brad Little dispatched USFS and IDL in December 2018 to identify two priority landscapes, one in the northern and one in the southern portion of the state. The southern portion consists of 2.3 million acres in Adams, Washington, Valley and Idaho counties. The northern landscape encompasses about 2 million acres across Boundary, Bonner, Kootenai and Shoshone counties. 

The governor’s office said the northern landscape “covers a variety of forest landowners and an extensive complex of wildland-urban interface where homes, infrastructure and communities may be at higher risk from wildfire.”

What Shared Stewardship will look like in action — where it will happen and how the various projects it prompts could affect access to public lands — is still largely up in the air, according to Idaho Panhandle National Forests spokesperson Shoshana Cooper.

“Shared stewardship is more of a concept and call to action than just identifying the priority landscape in north Idaho,” she said. “Shared stewardship encourages the Forest Service to be more deliberate in working with our neighbors and partners to expand forest restoration and treatment across boundaries to improve forest conditions.”

Working with neighbors and partners is something USFS already strives to do with “stewardship tools” like the Farm Bill, Good Neighbor Authority, Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Partnership, Tribal Forest Protection Act, Stewardship Agreements, Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program and Wyden Authority. 

With the new statewide Shared Stewardship efforts, which are meant to build on preexisting tools, Little’s office announced a goal to double the number of acres treated on Idaho’s federal forests by 2025.

According to Little’s office, “Using mechanical treatments, commercial forest restoration treatments and prescribed fire, partners will focus treatments on the 6.1 million acres that have been federally designated for insect and disease infestation.” Treatments consist of fuel abatement in the form of thinning forests to emphasize healthy growth by removing excessive brush and dead or diseased trees.

Cooper, with the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, pointed out that the large landscapes identified for the statewide effort encompass projects that her district is already working on as part of its “integrated vegetation and fuels management Five Year Program of Work.”

“We do not anticipate deviating from these commitments,” Cooper said.

Along with the announcement of the priority areas, Little shared his intention to appoint an advisory group meant to decide when and how to implement Shared Stewardship practices within the priority areas.

The group will consist of representatives from Little’s office, IDL, USFS Northern Region 1, USFS Intermountain Region 4, Natural Resources Conservation Service, a county commissioner, large and small forest manufacturing, Idaho Lands Resource Coordinating Council, Idaho Forest Restoration Partnership and a conservation non-governmental organization, as well as industrial forest and family forest landowners. 

The governor’s office does not have an established timeline for when the advisory group will be finalized, though group members will be “named in the coming weeks.” The group may also seek out technical expertise from ad hoc members as needed.

While we have you ...

... if you appreciate that access to the news, opinion, humor, entertainment and cultural reporting in the Sandpoint Reader is freely available in our print newspaper as well as here on our website, we have a favor to ask. The Reader is locally owned and free of the large corporate, big-money influence that affects so much of the media today. We're supported entirely by our valued advertisers and readers. We're committed to continued free access to our paper and our website here with NO PAYWALL - period. But of course, it does cost money to produce the Reader. If you're a reader who appreciates the value of an independent, local news source, we hope you'll consider a voluntary contribution. You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.

You can contribute at either Paypal or Patreon.

Contribute at Patreon Contribute at Paypal

You may also like...

Close [x]

Want to support independent local journalism?

The Sandpoint Reader is our town's local, independent weekly newspaper. "Independent" means that the Reader is locally owned, in a partnership between Publisher Ben Olson and Keokee Co. Publishing, the media company owned by Chris Bessler that also publishes Sandpoint Magazine and Sandpoint Online. Sandpoint Reader LLC is a completely independent business unit; no big newspaper group or corporate conglomerate or billionaire owner dictates our editorial policy. And we want the news, opinion and lifestyle stories we report to be freely available to all interested readers - so unlike many other newspapers and media websites, we have NO PAYWALL on our website. The Reader relies wholly on the support of our valued advertisers, as well as readers who voluntarily contribute. Want to ensure that local, independent journalism survives in our town? You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.