IPNF getting $4.8-million for fire mitigation

The Idaho Panhandle National Forests today announced a wildfire mitigation project that will bring $2,194,800 to state and private lands and $2,778,500 to federal lands in North Idaho. One of 10 projects selected nationwide through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership, The North Idaho – Highway 95 Hazardous Fuels Project will address 829,453 acres of high-risk state, federal, and private forestlands in Kootenai, Bonner, and Boundary counties over the next three years, aiming to mitigate hazardous fuels with active treatment of more than 7,700 acres.

The project aims to improve overall forest health, safeguard road access to at-risk communities, and increase public education to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire in the area.

The project area falls in the heart of the North Idaho Shared Stewardship Priority Landscape defined by the shared stewardship agreement between the State of Idaho, the US Forest Service, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and includes partnerships with county offices of emergency management, private landowners, and other state and federal agencies.

It integrates with past, present, and future treatments in the surrounding area, creating a larger fire-resilient landscape with wildfire-prepared communities.

“This project approaches wildfire threat from the landscape perspective, regardless of who owns or manages the land,” says Jeff Lau, North Idaho Shared Stewardship Coordinator for the Forest Service and Idaho Department of Lands. “By partnering across agencies and with private landowners, we are working towards a level of regional wildfire resilience that no single entity could achieve on its own.”

Lau also cites the collaboration between state, federal, county, and private interests for the project’s successful selection. “The Joint Chiefs’ Partnership focuses specifically on projects developed collaboratively,” says Lau. “Our shared stewardship group brought federal, state, county, and private interests together, which is the key factor that enabled funding through Joint Chiefs’.”

The project focuses particularly on addressing an increase in landowners requesting assistance with hazardous fuels mitigation through state, county, and NRCS landowner assistance programs. In addition to providing resources for fuels treatment, the project will continue educational opportunities including community public meetings, informational mailings, forestry education field-days, one-on-one site visits, and online trainings. Funding for private lands-related work will be provided through the NRCS’s EQIP program and through county Office of Emergency Management fire mitigation programs.

“We’re excited to be able to continue the work and partnerships we’ve built with previous projects including Scattered Lands,” says IDL State Forester Craig Foss. “We want to again thank landowners who are taking part in assistance programs for forest health treatments on their lands so we can truly make these projects continuous across property lines and jurisdictions.”

The Highway 95 Hazardous Fuels Project is one of 10 new projects nationwide in fiscal year 2024 to be selected by the Joint
Chief’s Landscape Restoration Partnership, which has provided $889,000 in funding for FY24, and will fund $2,778,000 over the project course. Partner funding will total $2,194,000.