Over the last 20 years, a myriad of insects and diseases have impacted forests throughout central Idaho. A particular hotspot for these impacts happens to be one of Sun Valley’s iconic peaks: the skiers’ paradise of Bald Mountain (home to Sun Valley Ski Resort). Wildfires in recent decades have encircled — but not burned — Bald Mountain, creating an island of green which is experiencing a rapidly growing bark beetle infestation. The U.S. Forest Service and Sun Valley Company historically have completed vegetation treatments at a small scale to address this problem, but it eventually became clear that the problem was growing in such a scale that more needed to be done.

In response to this, in 2019, the 5B Restoration Coalition (which ICL actively participates in) concluded that the development and implementation of a much larger, cross-boundary project was necessary to address the severe long-term forest health issues on Bald Mountain. The Bald Mountain Stewardship Project was born! The goals of this Forest Service-led project are threefold: 1) improve forest health through a variety of mechanical vegetation treatments and replanting, 2) reduce wildfire risk through fuels reduction work, and 3) provide recreational benefits to skiers through glading of previously dense forested slopes. More recently, there has also been a unique fourth benefit of the project — the delivery of large quantities of firewood for home heating to the Duck Valley Reservation (home to the Shoshone-Paiute Tribe) as part of the National Forest Foundation’s Wood For Life program.

Over these past three years, an innovative landscape-scale, cross-boundary partnership has developed between federal land management agencies (USFS and BLM), Sun Valley Company, the National Forest Foundation, ICL, and the broader Wood River Valley community. This partnership has been core to the success of the project and has led to this effort becoming a model for ski areas across the country looking to do similar projects. The strength of this partnership also helped the Baldy project secure significant funding from the highly competitive Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Program, a three-year project investment totaling $2.5 million.

The National Forest Foundation has a dedicated Bald Mountain Stewardship Fund to support ongoing work. When paired with Sun Valley Company’s financial contributions and through additional grant and federal opportunities, private donations to the Bald Mountain Stewardship fund are leveraged 5x through the National Forest Foundation. For more information or to contribute to the fund, please contact Dani Southard at dsouthard@nationalforests.org or 208.720.0957.

Want to learn more? Come join us for a Science Pub presentation on September 29th at the Sawtooth Brewery in Ketchum!