Pin It

Cut for a Cut 

Should Idaho chop more trees to pay for its underfunded schools and roads? Raul Labrador thinks so

click to enlarge Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador wants to cut trees in national forests.
  • Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador wants to cut trees in national forests.
Some rural counties that once thrived off timber sales are hoping Congress will allow them to pay for roads and schools by increasing logging in national forests. 

Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador introduced a bill last month allowing for the establishment of locally managed reserves where money from logging could be sent to rural counties.

“Rural communities are suffering in this economy, and their greatest assets are being held captive by the federal government,” Labrador says in a statement. “Instead of being given the opportunity to generate jobs and revenue, they must accept millions of taxpayer dollars to make up for lost revenue.”

A conservation group has decried the bill as the latest in a long-running attempt to circumvent environmental regulations in order to increase logging in national forests.

“This idea of turning blocks of public land over to state management or local management has been around for two decades,” says Craig Gehrke, director of conservation group the Wilderness Society’s Idaho office. “By turning over to local control, there’s less protection.”

Labrador’s proposal concerns a federal program called Secure Rural Schools, which is meant to give counties like Pend Oreille in Washington and Boundary and Shoshone in Idaho money to make up for declining timber revenue.

The program expired last September, but was reauthorized recently in a massive transportation bill that was signed by President Barack Obama, according to Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell’s office.

Cantwell, a Democrat, is backing a bill by a Minnesota senator to extend the program for another five years.

But Boundary County Commissioner Dan Dinning believes the answer lies in timber.

“There has been no solution that has come forward as to how we generate funds for the communities that have large federal lands in them,” says Dinning.

Data from the U.S. Forest Service shows that Boundary received about $1.68 million from the Secure Rural Schools program in the 2011 fiscal year, and Dinning estimates that covers about 50 percent of their budget for roads and bridges. “I call it fulfilling their obligation.”

Labrador’s bill would allow for boards in each state to recommend which lands would be placed into a reserve. The Secretary of Agriculture would then sign off on the recommendations.

“Federal timber logging has declined. I wouldn’t say it’s because of regulation, it’s because they cut over all their land,” says Gehrke.

And Dinning says the money from the pilot programs wouldn’t cover all of the money Idaho counties get from the feds. Of the state’s $31 million in Secure Rural Schools money, he estimates Labrador’s bill will generate about $13 million.

Though he opposes Labrador’s bill, Gehrke acknowledges that counties do need something to replace timber money.

“It does flag a problem,” Gehrke says. “There’s got to be a better answer than this, though.”


  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Recall and Response
  • Recall and Response

    The attempt to remove Spokane Mayor David Condon from office may be a long shot, but he isn't taking any chances
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Shades of Black Lives
  • Shades of Black Lives

    A Spokane County detective's Facebook post about Black Lives Matter sparks debate among local law enforcement
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Fires Hit Home
  • Fires Hit Home

    Tens of thousands of acres burn around Spokane on Sunday and Monday; plus, DOJ weighs in on concerns over bail system
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat
Coeur d'Alene Classic Boat Festival

Coeur d'Alene Classic Boat Festival @ Coeur d'Alene

Sun., Aug. 28

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Chris Stein

  • Ready for Anything
  • Ready for Anything

    Developing agility may help prevent injury
    • Sep 1, 2012
  • PAML's Next Step
  • PAML's Next Step

    Francisco Velazquez insists on symmetry. Even sitting at a huge table flanked by leather-backed chairs and a jumble of expensive video equipment, he makes sure his Blackberry and iPhone (the former for business, the latter for pleasure) are situated in neat symmetry with each other.
    • Sep 1, 2012
  • Burns Out
  • Burns Out

    As the city scrambles to keep Tim Burns around for a while longer, the police ombudsman says he may leave his post anyway
    • Aug 22, 2012
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • 'Unreasonable Threat to Life and Property'

    Spokane's rental housing has problems, but landlord and tenant groups are split on a solution
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • 'End of Story'

    Condon administration aims to close the controversial Frank Straub chapter — but last week's scathing report has irrevocably changed the narrative
    • Aug 4, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment


election 2016

green zone


trail mix

Readers also liked…

  • Green Thumbs
  • Green Thumbs

    Inside Buddy Boy Farm
    • Jan 28, 2015
  • Worth a Shot
  • Worth a Shot

    As preventable disease breaks out, concern for public health reaches a fever pitch
    • Feb 18, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation