AWR Litigates Project Initiated and Supported by Kalispels on Colville National Forest

Interesting (free) article in the Capital Press.

A Montana environmental group sued the U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday to stop logging initiated by the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, who are concerned wildfires will start in overstocked federal forests and burn onto tribal lands in northeast Washington.


The Tribal Forest Protection Act allows tribes to propose projects on federal land to protect adjacent tribal land. The Kalispel tribe asked the Forest Service in 2018 to reduce fire risks in the national forest.

“We believe an ‘All Lands-All Hands’ approach, involving all parties is a bold and necessary step to improve the current ecosystem conditions,” according to a tribal statement.


The alliance asserts the Forest Service should have done an environmental impact statement, rather than the shorter environmental assessment.

The assessment gave short-shrift to carbon emissions from logging and their potential contribution to climate change, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit also alleges the assessment didn’t thoroughly investigate how timber harvests, prescribed burns and road-building would impact wildlife such as lynx, grizzly bears, wolverines and wolves.

More wolves may be poached if new or improved roads open access to wolf territories, according to the lawsuit.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies has prominent supporters, according to its website, including former President Jimmy Carter; Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; music legend Carole King; and singer Gloria Estefan.

For some reason the reporter missed Reps. Grijalva and Maloney.

Now I think it’s highly likely that none of the supporters know the details of this project. I wonder if they know they are operating against apparent Tribal wishes and threats to their land and homes?

If we go to Rep. Grijalva’s website, he says..

As the first Americans, the Indigenous people of this region have culture and traditions embedded to the land. I am working to ensure that their rights as sovereign nations are not only respected, but emboldened, through policy-making at the federal level. We have an atrocious history of injustice towards the Indigenous people of this land that goes against the very values of our country and that we must constantly work to rectify. I will continue to be a strong voice for tribal rights in Congress whether it be fighting to protect sacred land from being sold to the highest bidder, working toward better health and economic opportunities for Native communities, or urging Congress to codify the tribal consultation process.

According to InfluenceWatch (and they could be wrong, and knowledgeable folks can correct me) Earthjustice is a vendor of AWR.

Here’s what Earthjustice says:

Earthjustice has a long history of partnering with Tribes, Native groups, and Indigenous communities to ensure their natural and cultural resources are protected for future generations. Today, as Native peoples lead from the frontlines of many pivotal environmental fights, our Tribal Partnerships Program is proud to continue that tradition.

Was it so long ago that the Colville Tribes sued the feds:

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government on Wednesday, alleging federal agencies failed to fulfill their legally required duties before, during and after the 2015 wildfires that burned more than 240,000 acres and turned parts of the reservation into a “moonscape.”

So I wonder whether these supporters of AWR, or the funders (who are not included in the 990), pay attention to this aspect of what AWR is doing? Or if they know, do they support it? Because at least with Mr. Grijalva it doen’t sounds like “respected and emboldened” “rights as sovereign nations” to me.




18 thoughts on “AWR Litigates Project Initiated and Supported by Kalispels on Colville National Forest”

  1. Please read the complaint, instead of protecting our old growth forests like the Tribes in BC they propose to log in moist site old growth stands. This is not about Tribal sovereignty, it is about a very destructive timber sale.

    • Paul, to me sovereignty means “they get to do what they want to do, even if I think it’s environmentally destructive, or I would prefer they did something else.”

      • “Tribal sovereignty refers to the right of American Indians and Alaska Natives to govern themselves. The U.S. Constitution recognizes Indian tribes as distinct governments and they have, with a few exceptions, the same powers as federal and state governments to regulate their internal affairs. Sovereignty for tribes includes the right to establish their own form of government, determine membership requirements, enact legislation and establish law enforcement and court systems.”,to%20regulate%20their%20internal%20affairs.

        Logging on national forest lands is not part of their “internal affairs.” They don’t get to “do what they want to do” on national forests, except as guaranteed to them by treaties with the federal government.

    • I just have a 65000 foot level view here, no connection to any of the parties here. Paul you’re a lot closer to the action…

      But, It seems to be an issue of harvest or harvest method. The FS portion of the 91,400 ac is 40,200 of which 24,400 will be commercial harvest:
      -6,800 regenerative (17% FS lands, 28% of commercial harvest)
      -8,800 thinning (36% commercial)
      -8,800 thinning using group clear (36% commercial – how much clear?)

      Plus 45,400 non-commercial treatments. (yes I know the numbers don’t add up but this is from the FS response doc…)

      So, 10+ square miles of regenerative….

      In the FS response to AWR they did mentioned:

      “The insect and disease portion of the existing condition discloses that 87% of the random plots in the project area displayed root rot and that the Cooperative Forest Insect and Disease Aerial Detection Survey shows that “Acres infested with fir engraver and Douglas fir beetle have increased sharply since 2017” noting that from 2015 to 2019 approximately 16,600 acres in the project area boundary were impacted by insect infestations, including the fir engraver, western spruce budworm, and Douglas-fir beetle. EA at 27-28.”

      So is the regen harvest necessary to deal with root rot/Bugs or a salvage operation?

      One of the stated purpose of the project is “address risk of insect and disease outbreak” (scoping doc) and “contribute to the local economy” (scoping doc) and :

      “The proposed action best meets the need to provide recreation and contributions to the local
      economy.” (ROD doc)

      – OK, check.

      Now how does that fit into the other major purpose “to increase forest health” and:

      “The proposed action best meets the need for addressing the lack of tree species diversity,
      structural and age class variability resulting from past management (including commercial
      harvest and wildfire suppression). Use of mechanical treatments and prescribed burning to
      introduce variability in age, structure, and species on approximately 24,400 acres and prescribed
      burning of natural fuels on approximately 4,500 acres will increase forest resilience and vigor
      (EA pages 32-43) by:” ???

      Ummm, I think some would wonder how regen is addressing this, maybe?

      Replace the regen with thinning, maybe not an issue???

  2. When did “moist forests” become a thing? I’ve only been hearing that term in the last 10 or so years and thought it might have been introduced by Franklin & Johnson a few years before that for some reason.

    What does it even mean? And why don’t we refer to forests as they used to do, and as the literature states, by species, type of species, geographic location, and/or commercial status? Are fog belt spruce, hemlock, and cedar now considered “wet forests?” Juniper as “parched forests?” Jungles as “humid forests?”

    I’ve been bothered about the dramatic changes in definition for words such as “conservation,” “preservation,” and even “old-growth” in recent years, but now we’re describing forests by moisture content? Or am I missing something (again)?

    • It’s an interesting question, Bob, and I’ll throw out a few ideas.

      I think the term itself comes from the international biodiversity literature. If you go back through Google Scholar I see some about tropical dry forests in the 1980s.. authored by the FS’s own Ariel Lugo.
      It might be based on this kind of classification that is useful for climate modeling.

      I noticed that it was mostly used outside the US until recently, and maybe that’s what you’re observing. I’m generally not thrilled with adapting international measures because they tend to come with international ways of thinking about problems unconsciously imbedded in what is called “the science.”

      However, in this case, in policy world, it might be an improvement. It used to be that universities and ENGOs seemed to think that east side forests should be treated the same as west side forests (say in Oregon). It happened that they were all on the west side.. I think they use “dry forests” to differentiate SW Oregon and Central and Eastern Oregon, and recognizing that they are different.

      ENGO folks I’ve been talking to (more mainstream groups and more on the ground focused) are willing to admit that there is a difference (dry vs. wet), and that influences their views on the MOG issue. Some groups are trying to bring other groups on board with this idea, but there is a lot of ideological inertia with the “leaving it alone is best” groups, for whatever reasons. At least that’s what I see. I’m curious about what others see.

    • I agree that the category of “moist forest” is not as helpful as it could be without additional information. But, I don’t think species composition quite gets there (e.g., D-fir could be on a dry eastside site or a moist westside site) without additional information. I believe the purpose of calling it “moist” is to provide information about the site condition, irrespective of the vegetation that exists in that location in the present, because a disruptions of disturbance processes can lead to mismatch of species for the site and moist sites would suggests a different management prescription and maintenance regime than dry sites. To me, it would be best to categorize locations based on historical fire return intervals (e.g., frequent, mixed, infrequent), along with species composition.

      These areas on the Colville are not frequent fire locations (hence the moist forest descriptor). Fire return intervals were often >30 years, with mixed severity effects, but there would also have been larger stand replacing events on a more infrequent basis.

  3. Apparently the only good Indian is an obedient puppet of the big environmental groups like the members of the Bears Ears Commission. When tribes don’t toe the line, all the environmentalists’ rhetoric about respecting tribal sovereignty and “traditional indigenous knowledge” goes out the window. Though it’s at least more consistent with their claimed mission than simply turning a blind eye to tribes doing things these groups normally oppose, as this interesting article I stumbled across recently accuses them of doing:

  4. I feel that the current woke trend to idolize Indians, and the associated belief that society be compelled to right the “wrongs” of the past is severely misguided. I also believe, firmly, that the comanagement agreements that are sweeping through our federal land management agencies are completely illegal, as they are violations of the civil and equal rights of other Americans.

    Here is a quote from an announcement by Americans for Equal Rights, regarding a lawsuit they recently filed:

    “The Civil Rights Act of 1866 prohibits any racial discrimination in the making and enforcement of contracts. Better known as §1981(42 U.S.C. §1981(a)), this statute guarantees all Americans the “same right” to contract, thus protecting the “equal right of all persons” to “make and enforce contracts without respect to race.”

    I believe that tribal comanagement agreements can be considered as contracts, and are all illegal.

    The obstacles to fighting this are rooted in too many Americans who believe that today, in 2024, that society owes Indians more rights and privileges than other Americans, because of “what we did to them”. I believe that we must stop wallowing in the past, and move in a forward direction. I simply do not buy into the idea of “generational trauma”, but instead feel that federal Indian policy is the root of the problem, and is a failed system that should be completely dismantled – abolish reservations, end Indian welfare, and end sovereign nation status. The ongoing social dysfunction, fiscal malfeasance, and abysmal student achievement are red flags of failure.

    87% of Indians DO NOT LIVE ON RESERVATIONS! Reservation Indians comprise 0.03% of the US Population. Many – not all – reservations are breeding grounds of hatred towards “whites”, which although subtle, is obvious when the actions of some tribes is examined.

    • Tribes are not a “race;” they are a government.

      “Americans who believe that today, in 2024, society owes Indians more rights and privileges than other Americans”
      “Owes” isn’t the best choice of words, but yes. Native Americans had sovereign rights that continue to exist, and treaty rights that have long been legally recognized.

  5. Is this a timber sale with requirements to reduce fuels or is it a fuel’s reduction project that has merchantable wood project. May have the same results on the ground but different effects on how the public see it.

    • I’ve wondered whether there are any “rules” for what a project is labeled, or whether it just depends on how they want the public to see it.

      • It’s been awhile but agencies react to how their budgets are labeled and what kind of contracting authority. If you go the timber sale route with dollars approiated for that one can collect money to reduce fuels as well as KV funds to do siviculture work. With the emphasis on forest health related to climate change those dollars and projects developed with those dollars should be labeled as such. Those who don’t want mechanical projects especially if they produce materials that can be used by forest industry will always consider and publish them as logging which generally leaves a bad taste in some people’s mind.

        • Thanks. I wrestle with this when I label the vegetation projects being litigated. They usually have an official name that sounds like forest health, but plaintiffs usually call them “logging.” I guess by plaintiffs’ definition, removing logs for any reason is “logging,” but I’d rather make the distinction you are making. I’ll try to pay closer attention to the labels forests put on their projects, but I get the impression that how they label projects doesn’t always reflect the funding source.

          • People usually use what ever terminology best meets their agenda. Logging is a product of timber sales but their or other products that gets lost in the discussion. The agency never has had an aggressive or program to help with public perceptions. When Jack WardThomas built the Starkey Elk research project a timber sale was used to clear the area for the elk proof fence and dollars from the sale was used to construct the fence.

            • As I recall, John, JWT wanted to spend the sale’s K-V receipts on building his elk fence, but USDA’s Office of General Counsel vetoed his creative financing.


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