Federal judge blocks megaloads from Clearwater-Lochsa Wild and Scenic corridor

BOISE — A federal judge this morning temporarily blocked additional megaload shipments through the Clearwater National Forest, America’s first Wild and Scenic River corridor and the homeland of the Nez Perce people.

Federal Judge B. Lynn Winmill’s injunction was issued as part of a lawsuit brought by Idaho Rivers United and the Nez Perce Tribe.

“This is a win for all who cherish the esthetic, spiritual and recreational values of the Lochsa and Clearwater Rivers,” said IRU Conservation Director Kevin Lewis. “The judge has provided the time-out needed to complete the environmental reviews, tribal consultation and rule-making necessary to protect this beautiful river corridor.”

IRU Executive Director Bill Sedivy pointed to the implications this case has for Wild and Scenic Rivers across the country.

“River managers across the United States are watching this decision, which is a clear win for all the Wild and Scenic Rivers of America,” Sedivy said. “This ruling shows that the oil industry and the world’s largest corporations can’t run roughshod over the Tribe, the people of Idaho or our nations’ most precious natural assets.”

Judge Winmill granted his 17-page injunction on the basis that IRU and the Tribe are likely to win the case on its merits.

“The plaintiffs are not seeking damages; they are seeking to preserve their Treaty rights along with cultural and intrinsic values that have no price tag,” Winmill wrote.

At the hearing in Federal Judge B. Lynn Winmill’s courtroom on Sept. 8, Forest Service attorneys sat shoulder-to-shoulder with lawyers for General Electric attempting to explain why they couldn’t stop impending loads while building long-term regulations.

General Electric filed Aug. 26 to intervene as a co-defendant alongside the Forest Service in the lawsuit filed by IRU and the Nez Perce Tribe. The suit, filed Aug. 8, sought to protect the Lochsa-Clearwater Wild and Scenic River corridor and Nez Perce homeland from the transport of enormous industrial megaloads bound for the tar sands of northern Alberta.

The Clearwater and Lochsa rivers were singled out for designation as Wild and Scenic Rivers because of their scenic, recreational, cultural and historic values.

“These rivers represent the embodiment of what the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was meant to protect,” Sedivy said. “They anchor cathedral-like forests. They are recreational Edens for fishermen, campers, hikers, hunters, bicyclists, history buffs and whitewater boaters. And they form the cultural and spiritual roots of the Nez Perce people. Industrialization doesn’t work there.”

The megaloads stand two stories tall, take up two lanes of the mostly two-lane highway and are hundreds of feet long. Their movement through the corridor requires rolling roadblocks, which block access to popular recreation sites, Tribal cultural and historic sites, and destroy the beautiful scenery of the river corridors.

“If we let the Idaho Transportation Department and oil companies have their way with the Lochsa-Clearwater Wild and Scenic corridor, it would be like allowing construction of a McDonald’s drive-through along the Middle Fork of the Salmon, or building a three story factory along the shores of Redfish Lake,” Sedivy said.

“This wild river corridor is a national treasure, and its industrialization shouldn’t be allowed,” Lewis added. “There are 80-odd tar sands projects either underway or under review in northern Alberta right now, and they’re all going to need oil processing equipment. These companies, some of the largest in the world, can afford to build their equipment in Canada or find other routes to ship it there.”

Since the fall of 2008, the oil industry, their contractors and a specialized group of shipping companies have been working to convert U.S. Highway 12 into an industrial high-and-wide corridor that prioritizes the transport of megaloads over other uses of the highway.

“GE’s intervention shows how desperately the oil industry and their contractors want to convert one of America’s first Wild and Scenic River corridors into an industrial highway,” Lewis said. “They need to know that our rivers are not for sale.”

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More information

Text of the decision

Statement by plaintiff’s attorney, Advocates for the West

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides.

15 Responses to Federal Judge Winmill issues temporary block to further megaloads on U.S.12

  1. avatar Barb Rupers says:

    Great news!

  2. avatar Kirk Robinson says:

    Thanks for this story. I’m happy to see the river, the Indians, and us conservationists win this one – for now.

    Personally, I think it is extremely important that all of us stick up for the idea that some things should not be for sale, period. And if it gets in the way of further Alberta tar sands development, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a further benefit.

  3. avatar Kathleen says:

    I just posted that link at the previous article, having overlooked this recent one.

    “And if it gets in the way of further Alberta tar sands development, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a further benefit.”

    AMEN to THAT!!! http://www.energy-reality.org/action/topics/stop-keystone-xl/

  4. avatar zach says:

    Well, let’s hope that the Forest Service has enough balls to do something about it this time.

  5. avatar LoneWolf25 says:

    To the bastards who put a dollar sign on everything including this wild and scenic river: shove your greed where the sun don’t shine and then off to hell where you all belong. You too, Gov. Otter, you scoundrel.

  6. avatar WM says:

    Ralph,

    I’m pleased. But, this still strikes me as just a “time-out” while the FS licks its wounds and a call is made to DC. I was wondering if there were any words of chastisement from the Judge about what they are supposed to do under the law. He has to be a bit annoyed, one would think.

    Any chance of getting a link to the text of Judge Winmill’s ruling?

  7. avatar Kevin Lewis says:

    And, if you’re really looking for reading material, here is a link to all the legal filings from our previous litigation and this current case.

    http://www.idahorivers.org/protectrivers/wild_scenic.aspx?page=megaload_court_filings

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Thank you, Kevin.

      So, the Forest Service is out of any legal options to let their fears control their actions; or, we should say their lack of action.

      Let’s hope Idaho and Omega-Morgan don’t create a face off and a crisis confrontation.

  8. avatar Kevin Lewis says:

    I suspect Judge Winmill would take a very dim view should OM try to move a load 🙂

  9. avatar Ralph Maughan says:

    I have added some information at the bottom of the original story.

    • avatar IDhiker says:

      This is great (probably temporary) news, and to be honest, I expected the judge to rule the way he did. I also expect the oil industry will find a way around the court order, but hope I am wrong!

      • avatar MAD says:

        I have to be honest, I am shocked that a District Ct judge was so forceful in his opinion. It’s refreshing, but I’m sure the appeal is being drafted as we speak by some $1000 an hour law firm/lackey of the oil industry. We can only hope the 9th Circuit agrees with Judge Winmill.

  10. avatar sarah dickinson says:

    THANK YOU, Judge Winmill. You are courageous and correct to take this stance. Federal judges are one of the last resorts of common and legal sense! The visual image of mega trucks hauling mega loads on this treasure of a scenic road is a nightmare. It NEVER should have been considered and it certainly should NEVER have been promoted by the companies involved. I am shocked that the USFS has been lured into backing this movement of material. THANK YOU AGAIN.

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Quote

‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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