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One of Idaho’s industries hardest hit by the recent housing boom and bust is forest products.According to the U.S. Forest Service, the timber harvest from Idaho national forests dropped from 172 million board feet in 1999 to 121.2 million board feet in 2008.The Idaho Division of Financial Management’s 2011 economic forecast reported there are about half as many mills in the inland region as there were 20 years ago.Still, the report projects growth in the industry over the next few years.“Idaho lumber and wood products employment hit a trough of 5,700 jobs in 2010 which was about 40 percent below its 2006 peak of 10,000 jobs. It’s projected to grow each year of the forecast, but it’s not fast enough to top the previous peak.” - DFMThe Division of Financial Management believes an increase in housing starts will help fuel a mild recovery in wood production.

Landslide Tragedy Prompts Board To 'Take Stock' Of Logging Rules Around Unstable Slopes

The Washington Forest Practices Board heard presentations on the Oso landslide and landslide risk more generally from geologists and Oso survivors Monday.
The Washington Forest Practices Board heard presentations on the Oso landslide and landslide risk more generally from geologists and Oso survivors Monday.

Washington state Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark repeated Monday that "It's still too early to tell" if there is a connection between logging and this spring's deadly landslide near Oso, Washington.

The Washington Forest Practices Board heard presentations on the Oso landslide and landslide risk more generally from geologists and Oso survivors Monday.
Credit Tom Banse / Northwest News Network
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The Washington Forest Practices Board heard presentations on the Oso landslide and landslide risk more generally from geologists and Oso survivors Monday.

Even so, a state panel that sets timber harvest rules decided it was worthwhile to take an all-day look at landslide hazards.

Fifty-year-old Deborah Durnell, the widow of a slide victim, delivered a call to action during testimony. She was at work when the huge landslide crashed down on the rural enclave where she lived with her husband. He was at home and died.

Durnell said she hopes the tragedy motivates the state to better protect people.

"Nothing can prepare you for a loss like this," said Durnell. "We owe every person who died to do all in our power to make sure logging regulations are adequate and they are enforced."

Prior to Durnell's testimony, the state panel heard from foresters and geologists about the scarcity of good mapping of thousands of similar landslide-prone slopes in Washington. There was wide agreement to ask the next legislature for money to work on that, as well as support for a Friday announcement from the state Department of Natural Resources to require more scrutiny of logging near unstable slopes.

But a call from several conservation groups for a moratorium on logging around landslide areas does not seem to be getting much traction.

Copyright 2021 Northwest News Network. To see more, visit Northwest News Network.