How logging saved Cd’A from extinction

By Shane Richard Bell

Staff writer/Coeur d’Alene Press

Coeur d’Alene was near extinction at the turn of the century. The mining industry was touch and go, jobs were far and few between, and the town’s population was waning. Coeur d’Alene’s population was less than 1,000. Luckily everything changed. While prospectors were discovering gold and silver in the West, we began logging our forests.

Between 1900 and 1910, 90 percent of the buildings downtown Coeur d’Alene were funded by revenue from the commercial logging boom. In the late 1880s and 1890s private loggers began building homes and small buildings. The logging of North Idaho forests exploded with the advent of an official U.S. Geological Survey lead by John Leiberg. “It was phenomenal,” said regional historian Robert Singletary.  “They hired thousands of people; and that’s what built the modern town of Coeur d’Alene.”

Logging built Coeur d’Alene, Sandpoint, St. Maries, and Priest River.  By 1910, there were four major sawmills in the Coeur d’Alene area. “Logging goes back to the first sawmill and Fort Sherman,” Singletary said. “They didn’t just build houses and buildings, they built roads, banks, railroads and steamboats with the money. They were extremely diversified and they stimulated the economy. It was these people who built homes on Sherman Avenue.”

This industry launched Coeur d’Alene into the world and established an industry that we rely on to this day. Covering 40 percent of Idaho’s lands, forests are one of Idaho’s most valuable resources, and logging is one of Idaho’s most valuable industries.  Since the early 1900s, more than a century ago, the timber industry has been providing jobs, resources, and taxes to the people of Idaho.

Managing Idaho’s forests sustainably and resourcefully is one of our greatest challenges, and directly determines our future. How we treat our lands will effect the coming generations. That’s why the 2012 A Salute To The Timber Industry publication features articles that educate readers on succession planning (the legal and financial footwork that can secure family-owned forests), continuing education-classes on succession planning, as well as tree species identification, ecology, and silviculture.

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