Out of dozens of possible issues that have been discussed during more than 75 meetings of the PAG Advisory Committee since mid-1989, 32 PAG Reports on issues suggested by the committee have been completed and published. Call or send us an email to order these reports. Alternatively, all PAG Report Series publications produced since 1994 can be downloaded in PDF format. Other reports are also available by contacting the Policy Analysis Group.
#36. Policies Affecting Implementation of Landscape-scale Treatments on National Forest System Lands at High Risk of Insect and Disease Mortality
Philip S. Cook and Patrick Wilson
(May 2015) This report focuses on three provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill that could lead to increased cooperative management between the state of Idaho and the U.S. Forest Service on national forest lands in Idaho. In 2014, the state of Idaho identified, and the U.S. Forest Service approved, 1.75 million acres of national forests in Idaho at risk of insect and disease infestation as Landscape-scale Treatment Areas based on criteria in the Farm Bill. Insect and disease treatment and restoration projects within these areas are subject to streamlined National Environmental Policy Act analysis and documentation requirements. The Farm Bill also expanded Good Neighbor Authority to a nationwide program that allows the U.S. Forest Service to enter into cooperative agreements or contracts with a state so that the state or its subcontractors can undertake restoration activities on national forests. The Farm Bill also made permanent Stewardship Contracting that allows the U.S. Forest Service to enter into long-term contracts with a state or other entity for restoration projects on national forests. The report responds to a series of focus questions that address potential roles, opportunities, and limitations associated with these three provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill. » Download PDF
#35. Fuel Treatments in Idaho’s Forests: Effectiveness, Constraints, and Opportunities
Philip S. Cook and Jay O'Laughlin (December 2014)
Wildfires in Idaho and throughout the western United States have increased in extent and intensity over the past 25 years, resulting in increased severity of adverse effects, including increased risks to firefighters, personal property, and ecosystem services, as well as increased costs for fire suppression and forest rehabilitation. One response to such wildfire problems is to design and implement fuel treatments in an attempt to reduce the severity of effects from wildfires. Fuel treatments lessen the amount of fuel available for burning and/or rearrange fuels to increase the probability that they burn with less intensity. This report summarizes research about fuel treatment effectiveness after wildfires have occurred and examines the risks associated with fuel treatments. In addition, the report summarizes policies that currently affect fuel treatment implementation and suggests policy options that may increase fuel treatment effectiveness. » Download PDF
#34. Sage-grouse Habitat Conservation Policy and the Wildfire Threat in Idaho
Jay O’Laughlin, Philip S. Cook, Zachary Johnson, and Eva Strand (June 2014).
The combined impacts of wildfires and invasive plant species are primary threats to greater sage-grouse populations in Idaho because they destroy and fragment habitat. Because of that, and other threats, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has proposed adding sage-grouse to the list of species protected by the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), a decision that will be finalized in September 2015. The State of Idaho’s goal is to prevent the ESA listing by identifying conservation activities intended to ensure the long-term viability of sage-grouse in the state. An effective strategy to reduce the wildfire/invasives threat would include actions for: (1) protecting existing habitat by managing fuels, establishing fuel breaks, and restricting travel; (2) responding quickly to wildfires, using early detection methods and having the right resources in the right places at the right times; and (3) preventing invasive species from gaining footholds, which is best done by protecting existing habitat from wildfires and responding quickly to wildfires. An ESA listing will not be prevented unless such actions are adequately ensured by regulatory mechanisms. This report identifies what might suffice as adequate regulatory mechanisms. » Download PDF
#33. Oil and Gas Exploration and Development Policies in Idaho
Zachary Johnson, Philip S. Cook, Jay O'Laughlin, and Kenton Bird (December 2013).
This report describes historic and current exploration events in Idaho, provides a brief technical background on the four phases of oil and gas development, and identifies and analyzes existing policies in Idaho. Development can provide economic, environmental, and national security benefits. Most policies are state laws and the regulations for implementing them and are designed primarily to protect water quality. Existing policies appear to address many of the concerns related to environmental effects of oil and gas development and will need adequate implementation, monitoring, and enforcement. » Download PDF
#32. Fuel Treatments on Rangelands.
Philip S. Cook and Jay O'Laughlin (December 2011).
This report is intended to introduce policy makers and citizens to issues related to wildfire management and fuel treatments on Idaho’s rangelands. The report summarizes the findings of fuel treatment studies on rangelands in Idaho and comparable areas of the western U.S., examines the risks associated with fuel treatment alternatives, summarizes the policies that currently affect fuel treatment implementation, and suggests research and policy alternatives that may increase fuel treatment effectiveness. » Download PDF
#31. Accounting for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Wood Bioenergy.
Jay O'Laughlin (September 2010).
The utilization of woody biomass to produce energy is accompanied by concerns about sustainable forest management and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from burning biomass. The conversion, or potential conversion, of land from native forest to biofuel crops has led to reconsideration of emissions accounting practices. This report critiques and responds to the Biomass Sustainability and Carbon Policy Study commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources and conducted by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences. This report is designed to respond to a call for information by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as it reconsiders how GHG emissions from biomass combustion should be treated under its regulatory responsibilities. » Download PDF
#30. Bighorn Sheep and Domestic Sheep: Current Situation in Idaho.
Jay O'Laughlin and Philip S. Cook (January 2010).
This report describes the existing situation in late 2009 for the conservation and sustainability of wild Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep (BHS) populations in Idaho, while also maintaining domestic sheep (DS) operations, some of them reliant on federal land grazing allotments. Reducing the risk of DS transmitting fatal respiratory disease to BHS involves separating BHS and DS to prevent contact between these sheep cousins. Separation can adversely affect some DS operations. The main problem addressed herein is BHS/DS interaction. We describe 1) federal and state decision processes and events for BHS conservation that affect DS grazing in the vicinity of BHS, 2) the participants involved in those processes and their perspectives, and 3) the information they rely on. By design we do not identify alternatives to the current situation, but hope the information will help Idahoans understand the full range of issues as they seek ways to sustain viable BHS populations and DS operations throughout the state. » Download PDF
#29. Public Land Exchanges: Benefits, Challenges, and Potential for Idaho.
Philip S. Cook, Steven K. Hacker, and Jay O’Laughlin (December 2009).
The objectives of this report are to explain land exchanges, examine their benefits and challenges, provide case examples, and present options for overcoming challenges associated with land exchanges. » Download PDF
#28. Analysis of Procedures for Residential Real Estate (Cottage Site) Leases on Idaho's Endowment Lands.
Philip S. Cook and Jay O'Laughlin (October 2008).
Idaho’s endowment trust assets include 354 cottage site lots on Priest Lake and 168 cottage site lots on Payette Lake. The state leases the lots, and lessees are authorized to construct and own single-family residences on the sites. The cottage sites are to be managed, like all endowment trust assets, to provide “maximum long term financial return” to the trust beneficiaries, primarily public schools. The State Board of Land Commissioners (Land Board) is the trustee for endowment trust assets and is mandated to “insure that each leased lot generates market rent throughout the duration of the lease.” Maximizing financial return to endowment land assets by obtaining market rent for cottage site leases raises several issues. » Download PDF
#27. Off-Highway Vehicle and Snowmobile Management in Idaho.
Philip S. Cook and Jay O'Laughlin (October 2008).
Recreational use of off-highway vehicles (OHVs) and snowmobiles has been one of the fastest growing forms of outdoor recreation in the U.S. and Idaho. The objective of this analysis is to provide policy-relevant information and alternatives for improving OHV and snowmobile policies and management in Idaho. » Download PDF
#26. Idaho's Forest Products Business Sector: Contributions, Challenges, and Opportunities.
Philip S. Cook and Jay O'Laughlin (August 2006).
Forests, logging, and the manufacture of forest products have long been parts of Idaho's history, economy, and culture. This report identifies the current contributions of the forest products business sector to Idaho, the challenges and opportunities the sector faces, and public policy opportunities that might enhance the sector's contributions in the future. » Download PDF
#25. Delisting Endangered Species: Process Analysis and Idaho Case Studies.
Mark McClure, Philip S. Cook, and Jay O'Laughlin (October 2005).
Delisting is the process by which the protections provided by the Endangered Species Act are removed. This report describes the listing and delisting processes and examines the roles the public plays in each. It examines the roles state and federal agencies have in the management of wildlife and plants in relation to delisting. The report also analyzes the prospects for threatened and endangered species recovery and delisting in Idaho, and concludes by providing some alternative ideas about recovering species and managing them after delisting. » Download PDF
#24. Forest Fire Smoke Management Policy: Can Prescribed Fire Reduce Subsequent Wildland Fire Emissions?
Philip S. Cook and Jay O'Laughlin (November 2004).
Smoke is one short-term effect of forest fires. Smoke is regulated by a web of interrelated federal and state laws and regulations designed to protect human health and welfare. Many forest managers agree that using prescribed fire can have less adverse effects on air quality than allowing wildland fires to burn forests under uncontrolled conditions. A policy question arises: Are the laws and regulations that protect air quality flexible enough to allow for increased smoke from prescribed fires in the short-term in order to prevent worse air quality from unplanned wildland fires in the future? This report replies to that question. » Download PDF
#23. Comparison of Two Forest Certification Systems and Idaho Legal Requirements.
Philip S. Cook and Jay O'Laughlin (December 2003).
Forest landowners in Idaho are required to follow Idaho's legal statutes and regulations when undertaking forest management activities. Landowners also may voluntarily choose to have their forest lands certified as well-managed by an independent, private certification organization. This report summarizes and compares the legal requirements for Idaho's non-federal forests with the standards of two leading forest certification systems: the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) programs. » Download PDF
#22. Forest Resource-Based Economic Development in Idaho: Analysis of Concepts, Resource Management Policies, and Community Effects.
Chuck Harris, Philip S. Cook, and Jay O'Laughlin (May 2003).
The future of Idaho's rural communities can be viewed two ways, based on two models of how communities use forest resources for economic development. One view is that commodity production drives economic development, harvesting timber and manufacturing lumber, plywood, paper, and other wood products from it. The other viewpoint relies on amenity values associated with the forest's scenery, wildlife, recreation, etc.to attract people to visit or move to Idaho, bringing money or skills that in turn drive economic development. In this report, we analyze Idaho's rural communities for evidence to support the commodity-based and amenity-based models of economic development. The two models may imply two different ways of managing forest lands and the resources that come from them, and they may portend different futures for rural communities in Idaho. » Download PDF
#21. Endowment Fund Reform and Idaho's State Lands: Evaluating Financial Performance of Forest and Rangeland Assets.
Jay O'Laughlin and Philip S. Cook (December 2001).
State trust lands in Idaho are to be managed to provide "maximum long term financial return" to the public schools and other beneficiary institutions. This report evaluates trust land assets and asset management with appropriate indicators of financial performance. Specific objectives are: review the changes in Endowment Fund management that have heightened concern for financial performance of land assets; select appropriate financial performance indicators for forest lands and rangelands; appraise the value of endowment forest lands and rangeland assets, and then measure the return on asset value provided by current IDL operations; discuss managerial flexibility in the context of the Idaho Constitutions goal to provide "maximum long term financial return" to the trust beneficiaries; and analyze alternative approaches for managing underperforming land assets. » Download PDF
#20. Taxing Forest Property: Analysis of Alternative Methods and Impacts in Idaho.
Philip S. Cook and Jay O'Laughlin (October 2001).
Forest landowners in Idaho are taxed under one of two property tax options:  the productivity tax option or  the bare land & yield tax option. In 2002, landowners with between 5 and 5,000 acres of forest land will have a chance to choose a tax option for the next 10 years. Large increases in taxable value under the productivity option during the 1990s may influence many landowners decision to switch to the bare land & yield option. The first objective of the analysis is to examine the impacts on forest landowners of the current forest valuation formula under the productivity option. The second objective is to examine the potential impacts on county property tax revenues in 2002 of a potential shift of forest landowners from the productivity option to the bare land & yield option. » Download PDF
#19. Toward Sustainable Forest Management: Part II - The Role and Effects of Timber Harvesting in Idaho.
Philip S. Cook and Jay O'Laughlin (December 2000).
Sustainable forest management is one goal of a growing list of human activities that impact the environment. This report places timber harvesting in Idaho in that context. The focus questions that guide the analysis are: What is sustainable forest management? How important is the timber harvesting issue in Idaho? What is the timber situation in Idaho's forests? What policies affect timber harvesting in Idaho? What are the effects of timber harvesting on other resources? The report also examines alternative approaches to watershed analysis as a tool to assure that forest management activities are sustainable. » Download PDF
#18. Toward Sustainable Forest Management: Part I - Certification Programs.
Philip S. Cook and Jay O'Laughlin (December 1999).
Programs certifying that landowners practice sustainable forest management, or that wood-based products come from sustainably managed forests, are in the early stages of development. Certification programs, and criteria and indicator (C&I) frameworks on which they are based, are tools for describing and implementing sustainable forestry. This report explains what C&I frameworks are and reports on a field test in Idaho. The report also explains what forest certification is, describes prominent certification programs, and analyzes policy issues that arise from the development and implementation of this approach to sustainable forest management. » Download PDF
#17. Public Opinion of Water Quality Issues and Funding Options in Idaho.
Jay O'Laughlin, Kevin McGuire, and John Carlson (December 1998).
The State of Idaho faces the expensive task of designing and implementing programs to reduce nonpoint source pollution in Idaho's watersheds. In 1998, the PAG measured public opinion about potential funding sources for water quality programs aimed at reducing nonpoint source pollution, especially in the agricultural sector. This report focuses on four facets of public opinion, attitude, or orientation towards water quality issues in Idaho: (1) relative importance of water quality issues, (2) knowledge about water pollution problems, (3) responsibility for water pollution control program operations and funding, and (4) acceptable options for sources of funding and willingness to pay increased taxes for water quality programs, specifically programs for reducing pollution from nonpoint source activities not regulated by state law. » Download PDF
#16. History and Analysis of Federally Administered Lands in Idaho.
Jay O'Laughlin, Wyatt R. Hundrup, and Philip S. Cook (June 1998).
Sixty-four percent of the land in Idaho is administered by the federal government. This report answers four focus questions: Why is 64% of Idaho federal land? What is the purpose of federal lands? What does the law say about "ownership" of federal lands? What "federalism" issues are relevant? The report analyses 10 alternatives for management of federal lands: two "no change" alternatives (current plans and interim directions, ecosystem-based management), two "change ownership" alternatives (land sale, ownership transfer to states) and six "change rules for management" alternatives (economic-based reforms, land leasing, Federal Land Management Commission, local advisory council, trust land management, cooperative state/federal management). A framework for comparing the alternatives is presented. » Download PDF
#15. Guidelines for Managing Cattle Grazing in Riparian Areas to Protect Water Quality: Review of Research and Best Management Practices Policy.
Jeff C. Mosley, Philip S. Cook, Amber J. Griffis, and Jay O'Laughlin (December 1997).
Grazing management is the key to attaining the benefits riparian areas offer livestock while maintaining water quality standards and fully functioning riparian ecosystems. This report provides management guidelines, based on review of the scientific literature, that will help livestock producers meet the goals of the Clean Water Act while grazing cattle in riparian areas. The report answers 3 focus questions: What are appropriate management strategies for cattle grazing in riparian areas? What are best management practices? How is cattle grazing in riparian areas addressed in Idaho water quality policy? » Download PDF
#14. Idaho Water Quality Policy for Nonpoint Source Pollution: A Manual for Decision-Makers.
Jay O'Laughlin (December 1996).
In 1995 Idaho enacted new legislation that emphasizes the involvement of local interests in nonpoint source pollution control in their watersheds. This report is intended help these local decision-makers understand what the federal Clean Water Act and Idaho's new water quality law require. The report answers 4 focus questions: What does the Clean Water Act require? How has federal court action affected Idaho? What are the features of the new Idaho policy? Will the new Idaho policy be effective? » Download PDF
#13. Endangered Species Act at the Crossroads: New Directions from Idaho Case Studies.
Jay O'Laughlin and Philip S. Cook, with Kelly Rogers and Troy Merrill (October 1995).
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) calls for the identification, protection, and recovery of species threatened or endangered with extinction. Idaho is home to 18 species currently on the threatened or endangered species lists. The report answers 15 focus questions about the ESA, the species its protects, the issues that cause controversy, and possible modifications of the act. The report includes case studies about salmon, grizzly bear and bull trout. » Download PDF
#12. Grizzly bear recovery in Idaho.
James G. MacCracken, Dale Goble, and Jay O'Laughlin (September 1994).
The report replies to six focus questions: Why are four Idaho areas designated for recovery efforts under the Endangered Species Act? Will grizzly bears ever be taken off the endangered species list? How has the 1993 draft recovery plan changed since 1982? Who makes decisions about grizzly bear recovery? What are the actual impacts of grizzly bear recovery actions on traditional and planned uses of federal, state, and private lands? To what extent is recovery compatible with existing and probable future land uses? Several alternatives for grizzly bear recovery under the ESA are analyzed. » Download PDF
#11. Forest Health Conditions in Idaho.
Jay O'Laughlin, James G. MacCracken, David L. Adams, Stephen C. Bunting, Keith A. Blatner, and Charles E. Keegan, III (December 1993).
Forest conditions throughout Idaho are deteriorating, especially in the national forests. The Boise and Payette National Forests recently experienced five years of catastrophic mortality; that is, forests identified as suitable for timber production are dying faster than they are growing. Forests in northern Idaho have root disease problems that will affect long-term productivity. Species conversion and fire exclusion have led to problems throughout the state. The report analyzes several alternative management and policy approaches. » Download pdf
#10. Analysis of Idaho Roadless Areas and Wilderness Proposals.
Jim MacCracken, Troy Merrill, and Jay O'Laughlin (July 1993).
How much of the 11.2 million acres of federal roadless lands in Idaho (9.4 million acres in the national forests) should be added to the 4 million acres of Idaho lands in the National Wilderness Preservation System? Since the last wilderness designation in 1980, various proposals have suggested acreage from one-half million to more than four million acres. The disposition or "release" of non-wilderness roadless tracts is one of several issues in the current political debate.
#9. Analysis of Methods for Determining Minimum Instream Flows for Recreation.
Troy Merrill and Jay O'Laughlin (March 1993).
Several methods are available to quantify the amount of instream flow for recreation purposes. Justifiable quantification is needed during the legislatively established appropriation process. A survey questionnaire incorporating quantification methods from the scientific literature was developed and administered to those experienced in quantifying instream flows for recreation. Surveys of experts and surveys of users were found to be the most widely used and most reliable methods.
#8. Design of Forest Riparian Buffer Strips for the Protection of Water Quality: Analysis of Scientific Literature.
George H. Belt, Jay O'Laughlin, and W. Troy Merrill (June 1992).
Scientists are at different stages in their understanding of the several important functions provided by buffer strips, which include (a) temperature moderation, (b) sediment filtration, and (c) recruitment of large woody debris. Much is known about (a) and some useful predictive models have been developed. There is only a limited amount of information on (b), and a recent body of descriptive information pertinent to (c). The importance of buffer strips in moderating the impacts of forest practices on water quality and fish habitat is generally understood, even though quantitative relationships are difficult to establish. Very little information exists on what the effective width of buffer strips should be.
#7. A National Park in Idaho? Proposals and Possibilities.
James G. MacCracken and Jay O'Laughlin (June 1992).
Idaho does not have a national park. Four areas seem to meet National Park Service "significance" criteria: (1) Sawtooths six congressional proposals surfaced between 1913 and 1970, and studies conducted in 1975 and 1989 without generating significant political support; (2) Craters of the Moon a congressional proposal was introduced in 1991, but did not get very far; (3) Hells Canyon citizen groups currently propose a park; (4) Owyhee Canyonlands a citizen group currently has an informal proposal in 1992. Analysis of three general arguments for and against designating a national park revealed little information applicable to Idaho.
#6. Silver Valley Resource Analysis for Pulp and Paper Mill Feasibility.
James G. MacCracken and Jay O'Laughlin, editors (October 1991).
Seven chapters prepared by ten authors analyze the non-mineral resources of this economically depressed area affected by heavy metal pollution from historic mining and smelting activity. A pulp and paper mill is not feasible in the 21-square mile Bunker Hill superfund site for three reasons: (1) the lack of water to dilute mill effluent during low flow periods, (2) questionable availability of wood fiber, and (3) potential liability for Superfund cleanup costs. PAG Issue Brief #3 provides information on the 2002 Brownfields Act that could provide some relief from Superfund liability to small business operators.
#5. State Agency Roles in Idaho Water Quality Policy (Special Report for the Idaho Legislature).
Allen C. Turner and Jay O'Laughlin (February 1991).
The framework of laws and regulations that affect water quality was analyzed, with an emphasis on nonpoint sources of surface water pollution. Agency responsibilities for program implementation were determined; 196 full-time equivalent state agency personnel are involved in water quality programs. The policy design is adequate, with little or no duplication of effort due to carefully designed agency assignments and interagency cooperative agreements. A list of 34 unresolved policy issues represents an agenda for action.
#4. Wolf Recovery in Central Idaho: Alternative Strategies and Impacts.
Carla Wise, Jeffrey J. Yeo, Dale Goble, James M. Peek, and Jay O'Laughlin (February 1991).
The report did not focus on whether wolf recovery should proceed, but instead on three recovery strategies and their likely impacts on other land use activities (grazing, hunting, etc.) in and around potential wolf recovery areas in central Idaho. Alternatives are: (1) natural dispersal, (2) reintroduction, and (3) federal legislative action. Arguments for and against each strategy were presented in concise tables indicating potential impacts. The report was used to develop the Environmental Impact Statement released in 1994.
#3. Idaho Department of Fish and Game's Land Acquisition and Management Program.
Carla Wise and Jay O'Laughlin (October 1990).
The program's history, purpose, and status was analyzed to educate voters about a referendum for a constitutional amendment that would authorize the Department to make payments in lieu of property taxes to the counties where the Department's 116,101 acres of land are located. Neighboring states own at least as much land exclusively for wildlife purposes; Utah and Washington each have three times as much. Information in the report appeared in newspapers and was used in the legislature. Voters approved the referendum, and a bill introduced in the 1992 legislature to implement such payments quietly passed into law.
#2. BLM Riparian Policy in Idaho: Analysis of Public Comment on a Proposed Policy Statement.
Kendall L. Johnson, Carrie Mosley, Jeffrey C. Mosley, and Jay O'Laughlin (June 1990).
Gathered and analyzed comments from 8 workshops and a mail survey of 225 organizations to determine if the proposed policy addressed important public concerns. It did, with the exception of educational outreach, which has now been incorporated into the BLM's final policy statement.
#1. Idaho’s Endowment Lands: A Matter of Sacred Trust, Second Edition
Jay O'Laughlin, Stanley F. Hamilton, and Philip S. Cook (August 2011).
The state of Idaho owns almost 2.5 million acres of land, held in trust for the benefit of public schools and other endowment beneficiaries. The Idaho Department of Lands manages the endowment lands to accomplish the constitutional mandate of securing maximum long term financial return to the institutions to which the land is granted. » Download PDF