COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — Two national forests in Idaho and Washington state could receive more than $90 million over the next 10 years as part of a forest restoration plan intended to boost timber production and create jobs while making forests healthier and less prone to wildfire.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week that the Colville National Forest in northeast Washington state and the Panhandle National Forests in northern Idaho are among 13 national forests selected to receive money.
The money is coming through the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program enacted by Congress in 2009.
The projects were submitted by local organizations made up of timber, conservation, and community groups that have been working for years to produce a reliable stream of timber from national forests while reducing fire danger, insect infestations, and reduce erosion.
“Caring for the forest where we live and work and play is a shared responsibility,” said Patty Perry, administrator for the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, part of the Kootenai Valley Resource Initiative. “This will offer a great opportunity for our community.”
The Spokesman-Review reported that work on the Panhandle National Forests includes improving water quality to help struggling white sturgeon populations and planting whitebark pines to help grizzly bears. The work would also reduce the risk of wildfires.
If full funding comes through for the project over the next decade, more than $20 million in restoration work could be done in the Kootenai River watershed.
The goal on the Colville National Forest, which could create more than $70 million in restoration work if fully funded during the next 10 years, is to return the forest to more natural conditions so stands can survive droughts and insect attacks.
Local sawmills would receive trees logged during the work, or sent to Avista Corp.’s Kettle Falls biomass plant.
Mary Farnsworth, supervisor of the Panhandle National Forests, said the money is needed.
“We would not be able to do this to this extent without this funding,” she said.