This Arbor Day, Celebrate our Endowment Forests, by Brandon Woolf, State Controller

Tuesday April 25, 2023

I’ve spent more than a decade serving the people of the great state of Idaho. I continue to be amazed by our tremendous natural resources and how they benefit our citizens.

As State Controller, I am responsible for accounting for all state expenditures by providing accounting services to state agencies, processing payroll for approximately 25,000 state employees, and operating one of the state’s largest data centers. I also serve as a member of the State Board of Land Commissioners, better known as the “Land Board”.

The Land Board provides direction in managing 2.5 million acres of state endowment trust lands, including nearly a million acres of forestland. This land was granted to Idaho at statehood and has been working for Idaho’s public schools and institutions ever since. Revenue from trees harvested in these forests has long provided most of the money that goes into the endowment fund each year. In 2022, the payout from the endowment topped $88 million in distributions to public schools and universities, and state charitable institutions such as the Veterans Hospital and the penitentiary. More than $100 million will be distributed in 2023.

These endowment distributions aid the state in three ways. First, the $88 million dollars paid out last year are funds that did not need to be raised through taxes. It’s not farfetched to claim that money grows on endowment trees! Second, endowment forests are sustainably managed to ensure this renewable resource is available for our needs down the road. When a tree is harvested today, seven others are already growing for the future need. Finally, growing, harvesting, and manufacturing trees into wood and paper products keeps our neighbors and local businesses working. Endowment forestland supplies 32% of the sawlogs and fiber that Idaho’s forest products industry uses, contributing $2.4 billion to Idaho’s economy.

Our state has been growing, harvesting, and replanting trees for over a century. It’s a formula that works. Over the past 10 years, we’ve hand planted 22 million seedlings on state endowment forests in addition to what nature seeds. That’s more than one tree for every person in the state. When you add this to the number of seedlings planted and seeded on private and federal forestlands, it’s a lot of trees!

We all know the great benefits trees have on wildlife habitat, clean water, recreation, and much more. The last Friday in April is Arbor Day, is a celebration of trees and working forests. I encourage you to look to the forest this Arbor Day and consider the many ways trees contribute to our state and our lives.