About 1.7 billion board feet of timber is harvested in Idaho each year. When making decisions about which trees to harvest, Idaho’s forestry professionals consider many factors and must follow numerous laws and regulations.

Harvesting timber provides logs for sawmills, but it also enables forest managers to better take care of the forests. Timber is often harvested to create wildlife habitat or to remove diseased, burned, or insect infested trees. Proper forest management is essential to ensuring that we’ll always have healthy forests.

The choice of how to harvest the trees is a complex one, involving a wide ranges of considerations. Forestry professionals must evaluate soil, slope, and water conditions; wildlife habitat; recreational opportunities; and the particular needs of the forest landowner. Each timber sale is carefully planned and conducted. Every harvest is different, because procedures and equipment to be used must be determined specifically for each site.

On federal lands, teams of foresters, biologists, soil scientists, hydrologists, silviculturalists, archaeologists, and wildlife managers help prepare timber sales. They must adhere to environmental laws that protect water, air quality, and threatened or endangered wildlife. An environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement covering management decisions must be prepared for public review.

Logging and other forest activities are regulated by Idaho’s Forest Practices Act which is administered by the Idaho Department of Lands. The Act requires logging practices be designed specifically to protect water quality and fish habitat, and requires that harvested lands be reforested.

On state and private lands, state law mandates that all harvest site be open to inspection by state officials in order to verify that all regulations are being obeyed and that good forest management practices are being used to keep Idaho’s water clean. Inspections continue for several years after harvest to ensure that new forests are replanted and that growth is successful.


Removing all of the trees in a stand is called “clearcutting.” Clearcutting is currently a controversial forest management practice. Professional foresters believe that clearcutting is a valuable tool for managing some species of trees, such as Idaho’s western white pine — a tree that does not grow well in the shade of other trees. Clearcutting diseased or insect-infested areas is often necessary to protect healthy trees.


Seedtree System
While this harvest option provides for the removal of the majority of mature trees, it leaves standing certain other mature trees, in small groups or singly, to serve as a seed source for natural regeneration. By carefully selecting seed trees, foresters can help ensure more vital new growth.


Shelterwood System
This selective harvest sytem is designed to remove certain trees, and establish new growth under the protection of an overstory of foliage. Sufficient mature trees are left standing to shelter the site until new growth is well established.


Group Selection System
This approach calls for the harvest of mature trees and the thinning of intermediate trees at relatively short intervals on a repetitive basis. This system supports natural regeneration and re establishment of a sustainable mixed-age stand. It also is advantageous to wildlife that have adapted to the habitat conditions of an older forest.


Single Tree Selection System
As the name implies, this highly selective system calls for the removal of individual trees, leaving the majority of the trees on a site standing. This system has been to remove dead and diseased trees from the forest, improving overall forest health