Nez Perce Clearwater salvage project enjoined

The Idaho District Court enjoined the Johnson Bar Salvage Project on May 12, finding  violations of NEPA and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.  During the time between the release of the DEIS in March of 2015, and the publication of the FEIS in October of 2015, timber harvesting activities on burned state and private lands had occurred or were underway, and additional wildfires had burned or continued to burn, near the project area.

The court found that the Forest had failed to take a hard look at the effects of these events on sediment and visual quality, and should have prepared a supplemental EIS to address the new information.  The main flaw was failing to undertake a quantitative effects analysis of the new sediment sources comparable to what had been done for the original baseline.  There were also conflicting statements in the fisheries evaluation, and evidence that road decommissioning would not reduce sediment as claimed.  There was no support in the record for conclusory statements in the ROD about a lack of cumulative effects.  The urgency of the salvage harvest was not given great weight in the balancing of interests that supported the injunction because the project was scheduled over five years.

This sounds like a case where shortcuts were taken to try to complete a project that was overtaken by events.  Haste makes waste.

The Wild and Scenic River holding involved an out-of-date river plan, but may have some implications for vaguely written forest plans (in relation to rivers, diversity or other requirements):

The Forest Service cannot effectively analyze, nor can the public and Court crosscheck, the Forest Service’s analysis, without a River Plan that delineates objective standards, or predetermined criteria, for describing, assessing, and protecting the Wild and Scenic values of the Rivers. Without objective, predetermined criteria, the public is left to trust the Forest Service’s “word” that it considered all relevant factors necessary to protecting the Middle Fork Clearwater and Selway Rivers’ Wild and Scenic values and that the Project will not affect or have minimal impact upon the Wild and Scenic values.”

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