Idaho officials signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week to improve forest health.

Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter and Gov.-Elect Brad Little, and Jim Hubbard, USDA under secretary for natural resources and environment, signed the new “Shared Stewardship Agreement” on Tuesday in Boise. The strategy, announced publicly in August, is called “Toward Shared Stewardship across Landscapes: An Outcome-Based Investment Strategy.”

"Idaho is leading the nation in implementing new ways to reduce fire risk in our communities and improve the overall health of our public lands," Little said in a news release. "The agreement we signed today commits us to working even more closely with our federal partners so together we can make the biggest impact on the land and in the lives of our citizens."

In the “Shared Stewardship” document authored by the USDA, federal officials note that while forest areas the government has treated has grown, wildfires and the loss of lives and structures have continued to grow.

“Because our treatments have been uncoordinated and not at the right scale. Although locally successful, we have rarely succeeded at the scale needed for lasting impacts across landscapes,” the USDA document states.

It is with those conflicts in mind that the USDA rethought its approach to land management and came up with new strategies, including the “Shared Stewardship” document.

“The Forest Service plans to share this concept for an outcome-based investment strategy with partners and stakeholders across the Nation as a starting point for dialogue,” the USDA document stated. “We realize that what we envision will require experimentation, co-learning, and adaptation. Working with States and others, we envision stakeholders coming together across landscapes to co-manage risk, use new tools to better target investments, focus on outcomes at the right scale, and recalibrate our wildland fire environment for the benefit of people, both now and for generations to come.”

For its part, Idaho has already developed strategies for forest land management, Tuesday’s state press release said, including the Good Neighbor Authority, which has state and federal agencies working together to increase active management and find solutions to natural resource issues. The Shared Stewardship Agreement will take these collaborative efforts to “a new level,” the news release said.

“By anchoring to GNA — and keeping our value of stewardship at the forefront of our minds — we are well positioned to implement this shared stewardship plan of action that will get the right results for Idaho," Otter said in the news release.

USDA Under Secretary Hubbard recently applauded Idaho for its collaborative efforts with land management, according to the news release.

“By pooling resources, sharing expertise and making decisions together, the State of Idaho and the Forest Service can get more work done in our forests to protect communities and provide jobs,” Hubbard said.

Over the next few months IDL and the Forest Service Northern and Intermountain Regions, along with the National Forests in Idaho, will identify two pilot landscapes, including one in southern Idaho.

"A landscape-scale approach will be used to evaluate recent and upcoming forest restoration projects, communities at risk, and what can be done to complement the work already planned in order to do the right work, in the right places at the right scale," the news release said.