Idaho Forest Owners Association Education Foundation works to educate and equip Idaho forest landowners By Christian Weaner
The state of Idaho—and particularly the northern panhandle—is full of vibrant forest lands that provide habitats for wildlife, water resources and timber production.
Since its founding in 2016, the Idaho Forest Owners Association Education Foundation (IFOA-EF) has raised funds to support various projects that promote sustainable forestry practices and educate the public about the beautiful state that they call home.
“We want people to understand where they live,” IFOA-EF Director and Treasurer Marrion Banks said. “We want them to understand the value of Idaho’s forested lands and the importance of managing them carefully to preserve forest resources.”
IFOA-EF is an extension of the Idaho Forest Owners Association (IFOA), which has been around since 1982. Initially, IFOA was formed to advocate for forest landowners in the state due to taxation-related issues. Over the years, the group’s membership and mission has expanded and evolved to cover a broader span of issues, ranging from forestry education to estate planning.
Two of IFOA’s charter members are husband and wife Kirk and Madeline David, who have spent their entire adult lives living in Northern Idaho and investing in the study and practice of forestry. Currently, Madeline serves as a director and treasurer for IFOA, while Kirk is one of the five directors of the education foundation, alongside Marrion.
“My favorite thing that I get to do is helping private forest landowners learn about and manage their forest,” Kirk said. “Educating people about forestry and helping them manage their forest properly—being good stewards of the land—is what gets me up in the morning every day.”
Currently, one of IFOA-EF’s largest projects—overseen by Kirk—is the foundation’s partnership with 9B Trails, a nonprofit entity that aims to develop new non-motorized hiking and biking trails in Boundary County.
IFOA-EF’s role in the project is creating interpretive signs that are placed along 9B Trail’s Enchanted Forest trail system. The foundation’s signs help to educate people about the surrounding forest lands, pointing out things like rare trees, thinning areas and new tree plantation plots along the trail.
Another important partnership for IFOA-EF is with Project Learning Tree (PLT), an award-winning environmental education program designed to help educate teachers and individuals who work with youth about the value of forestry in Idaho.
“We have to reach the younger people—the kids,” Marrion explained. “There is so much bad information out there about forestry and its impact, and the timber industry and its impact, and so on.” The education foundation sponsors teachers to participate in PLT Idaho’s annual Sustainable Forestry Tour—a four-day immersive experience that gives educators a behind-the-scenes look at what forestry looks like in Idaho.
“Every year, the teachers are just like, ‘Who knew?’” Madeline remarked. “And they are so enthusiastic.”
During the Sustainable Forestry Tour, participants tour high-tech mills, visit forests, meet people who are passionate about forestry and learn about how they can inspire the next generation’s appreciation for Idaho forests. After the tour, IFOA-EF asks the teachers they sponsor to write an article about the experience for the organization’s quarterly newsletter.
“I can’t think of one [teacher] that has come back that hasn’t said, ‘That opened my eyes,’” Madeline said.
Another potential avenue of forestry advocacy that Marrion and the Davids said IFOA-EF is considering is sponsoring workshops to educate realtors about the forest land that they are selling to people who are moving into the state.
“[Realtors] are the people that see the new people coming in [to Idaho],” Madeline said. “And we’d like to be able to start that education right there, when people are buying their land, and we’d like the realtors to know what it is that they are selling.”
According to Marrion, many new forest landowners often know little about the different species of trees and vegetation on the land they purchase. That is where she hopes Idaho Forest Owners Association Education Foundation can step in to educate and equip landowners about how to properly care for their forest.
In all of their partnerships and advocacy work, IFOA-EF’s primary aim is to educate people about how forestry works and why it is important. In doing so, the organization seeks to remind people that Idaho forestry is not only important economically and ecologically, but is essential for the proper care and stewardship of the land they live on.
“One of the driving forces behind what IFOA has been doing these past years and what the education foundation is trying to do is help people—especially new people who come to this area—understand where they live,” Marrion explained.
To learn more about the Idaho Forest Owners Association Education Foundation, or to get involved, contact Marrion Banks at firstname.lastname@example.org.