While we don’t usually like to think of forests and fire in the same sentence, this quote neatly summarizes the philosophy of the Idaho Forest Owners Association Education Foundation. Established in 2016 as the education arm of the Idaho Forest Owners Association (IFOA) and confirmed as a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable corporation in 2017, the IFOA Education Foundation seeks to ignite not only an understanding of the importance of Idaho’s forest lands, but a passion for the best management and preservation of Idaho’s forests.
According to the US Census Bureau, from July 1, 2018 to July 1, 2019 Idaho’s population increased to 1,787,065 a leap of 36,529 new residents (https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2019/popest-nation.html).
Although some of this population growth can be attributed to natural increase (more babies), most of it represents in-migration from other states.
These new Idahoans have many reasons for moving to the Gem state. Some may be seeking a more relaxed lifestyle, others may be trying to escape high taxes and regulatory interference, and others are simply looking for a lower cost of living. Whatever the reason, we are seeing more and more new residents both in our cities and in rural, forested areas. For those who make the move to a forested property, this may be their first up-close-and-personal experience of a forest outside a national park, but even a new resident in Boise or Coeur d’Alene may experience a much closer relationship to forests and trees than in the past.
The IFOA Education Foundation seeks to expand Idahoans' understanding of the importance of Idaho’s forests not only to our state’s economic health, but also to our air and water quality.
Mills, logging trucks, and signs that proclaim, “This family supported by Timber dollars,” all point to the significant role of Idaho’s timber and paper products industries to Idaho’s economy. According to the Idaho Forest Products Commission (www.idahoforests.org), the forest products sector of our economy is the source of “…nearly one-fifth of all the labor income generated in the state and more than one-tenth of the state’s total employment….”
But the benefits of Idaho’s forests extend far beyond dollars and cents. Trees and understory plants are long-term storehouses of carbon, taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen to purify our air. They also act as sponges and filters storing snowmelt and rainfall which are then gradually released for human and wildlife consumption. In fact, most of Idaho’s municipal water systems use water that originates in public and private forestlands, including those managed for wood production.
Unfortunately, many Idaho residents – both old and new – believe that managing forests for wood and forest products is directly in opposition to the environmental benefits of the forest. Nothing could be further from the truth! Through its support of programs like the Sustainable Forestry Tour for Teachers & Counselors and the Idaho State Forestry Contest, the IFOA Education Foundation is determined to correct this misunderstanding by expanding citizens’ appreciation of the environmental, economic, and social benefits of sound forest management.
In addition to the programs currently supported by the Foundation, future plans include funding scholarships to colleges and universities in Idaho for young people seeking a career in natural resources professions, creating online and digital forestry content for landowners and schools, and working with new partners to deliver innovative educational programs.
Idaho’s forests are more than background scenery or recreation areas with trees but an integral part of Idaho’s prosperity and environmental quality. The IFOA Education Foundation is working to make sure every Idahoan understands and appreciates the value of Idaho’s forests.
For more information about the Foundation, please direct inquiries to Idaho Forest Owners Association – Education Foundation, PO Box 1257, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83816-1257, or by email at email@example.com.
Marrion E. Newsam Banks
Idaho Forest Owners Association – Education Foundation
Board of Directors