Master Forest Stewards
NEARLY 2 MILLION ACRES OF FORESTLANDS throughout Idaho are owned by nearly 80,000 individuals or families, many of them lacking knowledge of the best ways to manage forests so they can thrive.
To remedy that gap, University of Idaho Extension forester Chris Schnepf, Coeur d’Alene, is three years into his launch of Idaho Master Forest Stewards (IMFS).
Similar to volunteer extension programs in other states, it is modeled on the successful University of Idaho’s Extension Master Gardeners. IMFS participants sign up for 70 hours of free or modestly priced training. In exchange, graduates volunteer a similar number of hours sharing what they have learned with the public.
UI Extension’s forestry workshops on more than a dozen topics (see website below) train some 500 family forest owners in Idaho each year. “But we need more help. We have thousands of forest owners who don’t know much about the woods at all,” says Schnepf, “Yet they play increasingly important roles.” In the past decade, 25 percent of timber harvests in Idaho came from family-owned land. Schnepf says family-owned timber sales in Idaho’s panhandle also are largely responsible for keeping surviving sawmills busy.
Why more family forests? Schnepf says when forests become more valuable as real estate than as timber, forest products companies often sell some lands. “Few new forest owners know much about forest management,” says Schnepf. The biggest issue is insects and disease. “If forests are not actively managed, insects and disease can get a big hold.”
Another problem is a basic understanding of how forests thrive. “A lot of people don’t realize the importance of species composition. A hundred years of fire suppression, partial harvesting, insects, and disease have left forests with very different profiles from healthier historical forests.”
So far Idaho has certified 21 Master Forest Stewards. In 2010 they logged some 500 hours reaching more than 2,000 people. In addition they wrote articles for newspapers and magazines and served in leadership positions in the Idaho Forest Owner Association and the Idaho Tree Farm Program. Deadline for 20 new IMFS candidates is April 1.
CONTACT CHRIS SCHNEPF at email@example.com or 208.446.1683; also see www.uidaho.edu/extension/forestry