Latah County officials are exploring ways to fund fire fuel reduction projects in certain parks, and selling the timber they cut to thin those forested areas could cover the cost of the projects.
Latah County Parks and Recreation Director Andy Grant said last month the county could potentially apply for a federal hazard mitigation grant that, if awarded, would help pay to reduce fire fuels, improve forest health in certain county parks and, as a result, protect the people and their homes near the county’s parks.
The county became eligible for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance grant program after President Donald Trump approved a major disaster declaration in June for several Idaho counties, including Latah County, in response to April’s flooding.
Grant said there were several requirements associated with the federal grant, and Latah County would not be reimbursed for its planning costs if it did not receive the grant. Grant said he is hesitant to spend funds and go after the grant since it is not guaranteed.
“It wasn’t a great fit for what we wanted to do,” Grant said of the federal grant. “Although I did want to make sure, you know, we got the letter of intent in so at least we could look into it more, and did look into it more.”
Grant said a forest management consultant advised there might be enough small trees in the parks, like Robinson Park and Virgil Phillips Farm Park, that need to be removed but are large enough to sell for lumber and cover the costs of the projects.
Virgil Phillips Farm Park is leased to the county by the city of Moscow, so the city would need to approve any plans, Grant said.
He said he has not ruled out applying for the grant, which needs to be turned in by the end of October, but at this point, he is leaning toward assessing the parks to see if they present sufficient small timber to sell in order to pay for the fire fuel reduction projects.
Grant emphasized the projects are intended to improve forest health and reduce fire danger — not to make money on timber harvests.
However the projects are funded, Grant said the goal is to complete them next summer. He is not sure yet how much the projects will cost.
Grant said last month that if the county did apply for the grant, he would likely put in a request of around $50,000 to mitigate fire danger in one or two parks. He said the $50,000 is a more reasonable request than the $200,000 project he included in the grant letter of intent to address most or all of the county parks, given the 25-percent match required from the county.
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.