A Wildland-Urban Interface Project to Transform and Protect Idaho’s Forests and Communities in 2019

A transformative project in the wildland-urban interface surrounding Idaho City was completed to promote sustainable urban development while enhancing forest resiliency and wildlife habitat. The collaborative efforts of the Rocky Mountain Research Station, the Boise National Forest, and the expert team at Peak Science Communications (PSC) gave rise to a pioneering initiative that combined cutting-edge methodologies, resourceful strategies, and a commitment to meeting crucial research objectives.

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In this article, we explore the remarkable journey of the Boise Basin Experimental Forest Project Environmental Assessment, showcasing its innovative approaches, far-reaching outcomes, and positive impact on both the environment and the communities it serves.

Revitalizing Idaho City’s Forests

The Boise Basin Experimental Forest and additional National Forest System lands, covering a sprawling 11,588 acres, were chosen as the canvas for this visionary undertaking. The primary goal was to restore vegetation and wildlife habitats in the low-elevation ponderosa pine habitat types, which lacked large tree and old forest conditions. This restoration is crucial for supporting diverse species, including the white-headed woodpecker, whose source habitat depends on the presence of such conditions.

Addressing Wildfire Hazards in the Wildland-Urban Interface

Over half of the project area around Idaho City is classified as the wildland-urban interface, where the convergence of nature and human habitation poses unique challenges. Most of the wildland-urban interface is exposed to moderate to high wildfire hazard, making it susceptible to lethal fires that are difficult to suppress. By bolstering overall forest resilience through carefully planned vegetation treatments, including timber harvest and prescribed fire, the project aimed to reduce the risk of wildfire for both the Boise Basin Experimental Forest and neighboring communities like Idaho City.

Image of the wildland-urban interface on the Boise Basin Experimental Forest

The Power of Effective Project Management

With a well-crafted project management plan, the PSC team ensured a seamless flow of tasks and a fruitful collaboration between the Contractor team and the Forest Service. Weekly calls kept everyone aligned while the Contractor team diligently executed their duties, adhering to specified timelines and quality standards. This efficient management approach saved time and minimized costs and facilitated the Forest’s successful implementation within the stipulated deadline.

A Holistic Analysis of Environmental Impact

The success of this project relied on the combined Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) authored by PSC. Unlike conventional EAs, PSC’s 4X Effect Framework created a concise and focused EA in only 3.5 months. Stretching only 54 pages, this EA complied with the Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ’s) updated regulations for shorter and more concise National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents.

The PSC team’s comprehensive analysis of various resources utilized innovative resource worksheets that meticulously assessed the effects on air quality, botany, noxious weeds, fuels, fisheries, hydrology, soils, recreation, visuals, transportation, vegetation, and wildlife. The PSC approach also emphasized a phased-in analysis approach with iterative reviews, allowing them to incorporate valuable feedback and making this an inclusive and streamlined venture.

Supporting Wildlife and Botanical Diversity

The biological assessments and evaluations conducted by the PSC team played a pivotal role in protecting the region’s wildlife, fish, and botanical treasures. By considering their specific needs and habitats, the project ensured these vulnerable species could thrive amidst the revitalized landscape.

Harnessing the Power of Data

Geographic Information System (GIS) data analysis was crucial to the project’s success. PSC’s skilled staff utilized GIS technology to perform resource-specific analyses and generate informative maps, facilitating decision-making and communication of the project’s potential impact to stakeholders.

Harmonizing with Forest Plan Direction

The PSC NEPA Specialist and resource staff meticulously reviewed the Forest Plan, ensuring the project aligns with the Forest’s long-term management direction. This step is vital for maintaining a sustainable balance between the project’s objectives and the overall Forest strategy.

Preserving a Legacy: Project Record Management

To ensure the project’s legacy and provide transparency, PSC maintained the official administrative record and delivered a readily accessible electronic record. Meeting the Forest Service Planning Appeals and Litigation System database’s requirements, this indexed project record stands as a testament to the project’s dedication to accountability and the preservation of the Forest’s future.


The Sustainable Urban Development project in Idaho City sets a remarkable precedent for forest management and sustainable urban development. By combining cutting-edge methodologies, holistic analysis, and data-driven decisions, the project achieved its objective of promoting forest resiliency, preserving wildlife habitats, and reducing wildfire risks in the wildland-urban interface. Thanks to the PSC team’s innovative approach and the collaborative efforts of the Rocky Mountain Research Station and the Boise National Forest, this transformative initiative paved the way for a safer, greener, and more vibrant future for Idaho City and its natural surroundings.

The PSC team has a long history of working with the Boise National Forest and completed the Pioneer Fire project at around the same time.

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