BOISE — Idaho has signed an agreement with federal authorities to increase logging and restoration work on millions of acres of U.S. Forest Service lands that experts say are increasingly plagued with insect infestations and destructive wildfires.
Idaho Governor “Butch” Otter, Gov.-elect Brad Little and U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Jim Hubbard signed the Shared Stewardship Agreement on Tuesday -- that officials say could serve as a template for other Western states.
The agreement calls for ramping up a federal-state partnership of the federally approved Good Neighbor Authority that allows state workers to assist on timber sales and restoration work on Forest Service land.
Officials say landscape-scale projects are needed to treat 6.1 million acres of national forests in Idaho that have a high risk for disease and wildfire.
“By pooling resources, sharing expertise and making decisions together, the State of Idaho and the Forest Service can get more work done in our forests to protect communities and provide jobs,” said Undersecretary Hubbard.
“Idaho has proven repeatedly, it is an effective and innovative leader in finding consensus-based, commonsense solutions to complex natural resource issues,” Otter said. “By anchoring to GNA –- and keeping our value of stewardship at the forefront of our minds –- we are well positioned to implement this shared stewardship plan of action that will get the right results for Idaho.”
"Idaho is leading the nation in implementing new ways to reduce fire risk in our communities and improve the overall health of our public lands," Governor-elect Little added. "The agreement we signed today commits us to working even more closely with our federal partners so together we can make the biggest impact on the land and in the lives of our citizens."
(Keith Ridler of the Associated Press contributed to this article)