Framing Our Community’s “Jobs in the Woods” Program creates educational opportunities and full-time jobs in the fields of Hazardous Fuels Reduction and Forest/Watershed Restoration. Natural Resource Professionals, unemployed timber workers and college students learn how to effect treatments that restore our national forest to health or how to create defensible space on private lands. Where possible, this is accomplished with the use of low impact equipment that creates the least amount of soil and vegetative disturbance in less time and at a low cost per acre. They also learn turn of the century skills, like dry stone masonry, to effect erosion control on wilderness trails and methods to improve wildlife and anadromous fish habitat.
In the last century, our surrounding forests – which consist primarily of 80 to 100-year-old lodge pole pine, as well as other softwoods have fallen on hard times. Timber harvests have been largely curtailed by the elimination of logging in the national forests while our lodgepole pine has reached is maturity; now, our lodgepole pine are dying of old age as well as by attacks of the mountain pine beetle. There is increasing fire danger from dead timber and the forest has become more unhealthy each year. The result of all this has been a severe decline in the physical and economic health of the region.
Framing Our Community has created an integrated process of vital and innovative projects that can be shared with other natural resource-based communities. Sustainable Northwest’s “Healthy Forest Healthy Partnership,” the University of Idaho’s Community Development Institute, twelve economic development centers funded by the Idaho Department of Commerce and public forums allow FOC to share lessons learned throughout the Pacific and Inland Northwest region. Without initiatives like these, opportunities for rural communities to break the cycle of poverty, their dependence on outside resources and the depletion of natural capital will be missed.
To conduct projects on federally managed lands, FOC has entered into multi-year Agreements with the U.S. Forest Service, Nez Perce National Forest and Bureau of Land Management, and Cottonwood Field Office. Together we are developing models for fuels reduction and restoration of federally managed forest lands that suffer from high fuel loads, an over-crowded understory, extensive insect infestation and deteriorated watersheds. Partnering with the Nez Perce Tribe and the Montana Conservation Corps, an Americorp program, allows tribal members, graduate and undergraduate students to gain practical skills, share knowledge, and acquire scholarship money while working with FOC on restoration and fuels reduction projects.
We have the opportunity to “Teach New Tools for New Times” while restoring our national forests to health and creating secondary products that add value to wood that was once thought to have little or no value. Through our forest restoration retraining program we expect to restore habitat, mitigate forest and watershed deterioration, train displaced workers in the methods of forestry that create the least disturbance, study new methods of extraction and develop new equipment. We will monitor and assess projects to gather data and improve the processes used. This will create jobs and give small independent business owners the new tools and skills they need to become prosperous again.
We invite anyone interested in our “JITW Program” to contact us, help develop projects, collect data or monitor outcomes and even come “get their hands dirty”. In 1999, the community raised this beautiful timber framed Gazebo (below) with the help of Timber Framer’s Guild members from as far away as New Hampshire.