Local Organizations Sue to Protect Wildlife Habitat and Watersheds on the Nez Perce National Forest in Idaho

The following press release is from Friends of the Clearwater and Friends of Rapid River. -mk

Friends of Rapid River, a local group of concerned citizens in Pollock, Idaho, and Friends of the Clearwater, headquartered in Moscow, Idaho, filed suit in federal court in Idaho to protect the wildlife habitat in the Little Salmon and Rapid River drainages of the Nez Perce National Forest from a large logging project that went through minimal environmental review.

The groups are challenging the Forest Service’s approval of Windy Shingle, which would log 2510 acres within the watershed of Rapid River. The project includes massive clear-cutting and roadwork covering just over 58 miles, including over 5 miles of new so-called temporary roads.

The area consists of large grassy openings interspersed with forests. The citizens are concerned heavy logging would remove needed cover for elk and other species that need older forested habitats. The two groups claim in the suit that the Forest Service’s approval of this project violates the National Forest Management Act, which requires the Forest Service to abide by its forest plans regarding protection of habitat. For example, the suit quotes from the Nez Perce National Forest Plan, which requires the agency to, “[v]erify the quality, amount, and distribution of existing and replacement old-growth habitat as part of project planning;” and, that old-growth stands will be “inventoried and prioritized [for retention] with highest priority for inventory in those drainages with proposed timber sales or other activities that could adversely impact old growth.” In particular, the forest plan identifies pileated woodpecker, goshawk, fisher and marten and indicator species of old growth habitat. The suit also asserts that the project approval violates the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to adequately look at the changed condition of this proposed timber sale in light of the recent fires.

“We, Friends of Rapid River, are concerned about keeping old growth and older forests for elk cover. This area is already diverse with large natural openings for grazing and foraging. Elk need the remaining forested areas,” stated Ray Petersen.

Gary Macfarlane of Friends of the Clearwater said, “Species like marten, fisher, and goshawks need old forests. However, the cursory analysis does not demonstrate that the timber sale meets the forest plan requirements to protect those species. In addition, the changes to the area from the Rattlesnake Fire have not been properly considered as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.” Macfarlane concluded, “It appears the Forest Service rushed through the process by using a cookie-cutter approach that does not apply to the landscape.”

1 thought on “Local Organizations Sue to Protect Wildlife Habitat and Watersheds on the Nez Perce National Forest in Idaho”

  1. “Doesn’t apply to the landscape” check out this map..https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/105126_FSPLT3_4093417.pdf
    (note for non Idahoans or non Roadless geeks: there are several shaded categories that are Idaho Roadless Rule themes with different management requirements as laid out in the Idaho Roadless Rule.

    Decision Memo here:https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/105126_FSPLT3_4093428.pdf
    Other docs here: https://data.ecosystem-management.org/nepaweb/nepa_project_exp.php?project=50250

    *The project is using a Farm Bill CE due to the (documented) insect and disease aspects of the project. It also has WUI fuel treatments and used a collaborative as required by the Farm Bill CE.*

    I don’t know what “massive clearcutting” is exactly but here’s what the DM says about that…

    “Regeneration treatments will occur on 1,206 acres and seek to create a new age class of preferred, more resilient species as the only age class in a stand, except for tree patches or single leave trees. A few trees are left in a regeneration harvest unit and regenerated stands will be replanted within five years after treatments are completed. Plantings will consist of western larch, or a western larch – ponderosa pine combination. Eight areas within harvest units, or combinations of harvest units, would have openings greater than 40 acres, ranging from 63 to 237 acres in size. These openings would contain both individual leave trees as well as leave tree areas of diverse shapes and sizes (Figure 3).”
    (I am going to try to upload the photos and a map)

    Here’s what changed based on public input (note adding acres):
    “Comments from the public and collaborative efforts undertaken before and after the release of the scoping document changed the project as well. The Proposed Action scoping document included harvest on 93 acres in six units in the Salmon Face IRA. Many commenters expressed concern with harvesting in roadless areas. The proposed harvest had silvicultural and ecological benefits in addressing insect and disease infestations threatening the resiliency of those stands. However, their distance from inhabited areas lessened their contribution to protection of the Wildland-Urban Interface. Therefore, I have decided to drop these harvest areas, based on consideration of those two factors, and public comments on the issue. I consulted with the fuels specialist and believe that we can still meet the purpose and need for the project without harvest in the roadless area. Specialists considered this change and documented any issues of significance to their effects conclusions in the project record.
    Collaboration with area landowners resulted in the addition of 198 acres of harvest and fuel treatment in Unit 5. This addition was made after the public meeting and was described in the Proposed Action scoping document. Collaboration efforts are described in more detail later in this document.”


    “Approximately three miles of road reconstruction is required on FS road 624 and other roads to re-establish a functioning road bed, surface, and ditches, and widen curves to accommodate safe timber haul. Road decommissioning is proposed for 5.6 miles of roads within the project area through abandonment or obliteration. Construction of approximately 3.9 miles of temporary roads (including on the existing road prism) will occur and these roads will be decommissioned within three years of project completion. The remainder of roads and road segments not needed for implementation activities will remain with no work proposed. No permanent roads will be constructed. “


Leave a Comment

Discover more from The Smokey Wire : National Forest News and Views

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading