Neighbors and Idaho Rivers United File Suit on Forest Service Road Use by State

Couldn't find a photo of the area, this is from the Johnson Bar fire which is somewhere close.

Couldn’t find a photo of the area, this is from the Johnson Bar fire which is somewhere close.

Here are some links to this lawsuit.. Idaho Rivers news release here

Here’s the AP story, below is an excerpt:

Sharla Arledge, spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Lands, said the Selway Fire Salvage Timber Harvest was scheduled for April 24 but was postponed after the state agency couldn’t reach an agreement with the Wrights when they expressed concerns about the plan. Arledge said the department is considering its options.

Department officials estimate the sale on about 167 acres would produce nearly 7 million board feet of timber and bring in about $1.7 million to the endowment fund that supports Idaho’s public schools.

The lightning-caused Johnson Bar Fire burned more than 20 square miles last summer and fall, mostly on Forest Service land but also on state endowment land. The department said there is no Wild and Scenic easement on state lands in the area where the logging is planned.

Specifically, the lawsuit seeks to reverse the determination by District Ranger Joe Hudson that Forest Road 652 is public. If it’s not public, that means the Department of Lands would have to obtain a special use permit from the Forest Service, according to the federal agency’s regulations, the lawsuit said.

Issuing such a permit, the lawsuit noted, would require the Forest Service to conduct an analysis of impacts on the scenic river corridor as required by the National Environmental Policy Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

The lawsuit contends that the road is maintained by the Wrights to their home, but then becomes a dirt track that’s not maintained. The lawsuit also said that a 2007 road access guide for the Nez Perce National Forest doesn’t list 652 as open for motor vehicle use.

“This case is really about process,” said Laird Lucas, an attorney at Advocates for the West who is representing Idaho Rivers United. “It’s about holding the Forest Service accountable to its own laws and regulations.”

Really, it’s about process? Because it sounds like it might be about people living in WSR corridor (conceivably with some environmental impacts) that don’t want logging and log trucks around. I wonder whether the folks could just write a check to the Idaho schools for the $1.7 mill and end up saving themselves and the USG money.

The headline on Court Newshouse here is “greens fight clearcutting in Idaho.”

8 Comments

  1. Maybe it’s time for Idaho and other western states to find a better way to fund schools, rather than this retrograde, 19th century approach that maximizes resource extraction and minimizes regulation. Eastern states manage to fund their schools without using this approach.

  2. “Really, it’s about process? Because it sounds like it might be about people living in WSR corridor (conceivably with some environmental impacts) that don’t want logging and log trucks around.”

    Interesting, you suggest a substantive component to the complaint, which may well be true. But, with respect to NEPA at least, the FS is always steadfast in its insistence that its only obligation, and its only>/i> point of legal liability, is with regard to procedure (“process”). There is a mantra that appears essentially in every federal defendant’s answer brief where NEPA is at issue, stating that “NEPA imposes only procedural obligations on the agency, and not substantive obligations”, or words to that effect. There is sufficient poorly-reasoned but nonetheless controlling case law out there that courts generally accept this position. Process is the only game in town, so people shouldn’t whine about plaintiffs playing it. Laird Lucas is correct, it’s about holding the Forest Service accountable to its own (and other federal) laws and regulations. Simple concept, but often an uphill battle.

    And, if environmental impacts are “conceivable”, to use your term, it seems like the responsible course of action would be for the agency to actually evaluate those impacts, rather than trying to avoid that analysis and do an end run with their “oh yeah we decided that’s actually a public road” approach.

    Your suggestion that plaintiffs should “just write a check” to apparently purchase their own legal rights is ludicrous, if you’ll pardon my saying so.

  3. Sharon,
    Yes, I know the history. But this concept was based on a political and economic reality that has radically changed. Unlike the 19th and early 20th centuries most people in the West no longer live on farms and ranches, and only a relatively small amount of the overall economy is dependent on logging, farming, mining, etc. The vast majority of the people of the region live in places like Seattle, Portland, Boise, and Salt Lake City, and do not need to depend on logging, fracking, mining, and other exploitation of state and federal lands to fund their schools. They have many other options. The small number of people who do depend on this source of funding could be accommodated through local property taxes with state supplements, a system used by many states East of the Rocky Mountains.

  4. How about we use some of that burnt timber to create something of value with? Why not create long lasting wood products, economy, and help pay for schools with dead trees?
    People need to realize also when 70% of your land base is owned by the government that some revenue needs to come from those lands. I think people also need to realize that almost 90% of the federal forests in the West are off limits to any kind of resource extraction. The projects that are proposed are taking place on the reminding 10%.
    Reading about the lawsuits and other litigation against projects proposed mostly by the USFS it seems to me oblivious that it all about stopping people from using publicly owned natural resources. Its not about the endangered species, it’s not about following the law, its about stopping logging and cattle grazing on public lands. Does this mean that only large corporations who are rich enough to own large areas of private land are the only ones allowed to extract natural resources? Often with few of the environmental regulations that are required on federal lands.
    You would think by now we would all know, even those living in Seattle and Portland and other urban centers that we all dependent on using natural resources, even when your job is not directly depended on the production of natural resources.

  5. I dunno….New York State Forests amount to 790,000 acres and last year logged 30 million board feet(MMBF) on 1% of the total acreage…of course New York is like Washington and Oregon…once you get outta the urban blight, it’s a bunch of Red Counties. So lets take a look at Vermont…isn’t this the place that has a socialist Senator and gave Obama like 80% of the vote? Vermont State Forests amount to 355,000 acres. Can’t find state forest harvest reports, but the whole state cuts 176 MMBF, which isn’t to shabby considering the whole state of Montana cuts 350 MMBF. Wisconsin harvests 1.7% of their state lands every year. They don’t need it to fund schools…but actually, forestry is a pretty groovy thing back east.

    I don’t think you wanna know how much Washington state cuts…and I thought their future was software engineers. Considering that the state of Oregon cuts more timber on 3% of the land area than the USFS with 60%…its gonna take a lot of pot taxes to make up that deficit. God knows what state forestry is like in the South.

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