Labrador’s legislation was introduced this week and will set up pilot projects to demonstrate how selected national forest resources might be managed in trust to benefit rural communities.
“Idaho’s counties recognize the need to find alternative funding sources for county roads and schools,” said Dan Chadwick, Executive Director of the Idaho Association of Counties. “This alternative allows local counties to control their own destiny. The Idaho Association of Counties supports the establishment of a forest community trust program.”
“This is really promising” said Stan Leach, Clearwater County Commissioner. “Our school and road budgets are stretched to the breaking point and there is absolutely nothing more important than employment opportunities here in Clearwater County. This proposal addresses all of that and will also improve the health of our forests.”
“I am excited to try something besides standing around with our hand out for a Federal check” said Skip Brandt, Idaho County Commissioner. “This builds on the work of our collaborative group that has agreed on the need for more active management of our forests to produce wood products and reduce insect, fire threats, and jobs. We have been looking for a way to do that effectively.” More than 83% of Idaho County is in federal ownership and federal revenues for schools and roads are essential to sustaining those county services.
“This is simply a great idea whose time has come,” said Dan Dinning, Boundary County Commissioner. “We presented it to the Idaho state legislature last session where it was unanimously endorsed by a Joint Memorial. We also presented the concept to Governor Otter and the Idaho Land Board and have received their approval to move forward.”
“This is a very important proposal,” said Jon Cantamessa, former Shoshone County Commissioner. “When given the chance, I am confident forest trusts will work to provide reliable income for our county schools and roads, protect our forest environment, and provide real job opportunities for people in our communities.”
The forest trust concept was first proposed by five Idaho Commissioners, one each from Boundary County (Dan Dinning), Clearwater County (Stan Leach), Idaho County (Skip Brandt), Shoshone County (Jon Cantamessa), and Valley County (Gordon Cruickshank). It was presented to Representative Labrador and the US House Resources Committee in a statement for the Committee Hearing on the Secure Rural Schools Program.
“Since coming into office I have worked with fellow commissioners and organizations throughout the country to improve forest health by using sound management practices and to seek a solution to the funding for rural schools and roads,” said Valley County Commissioner Gordon Cruickshank. “Labrador’s forest trust legislation will allow the Federal Government to meet its obligation by providing a portion of the funding to educate our children and maintain the roads in the rural communities, while providing jobs and protecting our National Forest environment so important to everyone.”
Additional information about the Idaho Community Forest Trust Pilot can be found at: http://sustainableforests-communities.org/our-projects/community-forest-trust-project/