Forest Service Proposed Action Deeply Flawed

Moscow – Today, Friends of the Clearwater announced their outline of a Citizens Conservation Biology Alternative for the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests Plan Revision. The Clearwater River drainage encompasses nearly 5-million acres of public wildlands and is part of the largest intact ecosystem in the lower 48. Tremendous biodiversity is found throughout low and high elevations and conservation biologists consider the Clearwater drainage the most important habitat for large forest carnivores in the U.S and Canadian Rockies. Along with designated wilderness and wild and scenic waterways, the Clearwater drainage also has 1.5-million acres of unprotected roadless wildlands.

“We are excited to put forth a citizen alternative based on sound scientific principles that would protect the outstanding natural values of the Clearwater basin,” said Brett Haverstick, Education & Outreach Director for Friends of the Clearwater. “This alternative is about protecting water, soils, habitat and biological connectivity.”

A cornerstone to the group’s citizen alternative for the forest plan revision is offering long-term protection for the vast roadless wildlands and waterways in the Clearwater drainage. This contrasts sharply with the Forest Service’s initial proposal for revision, released today as well, which would promote motorization and development of wild country. The agency proposal betrays the 1993 Clearwater National Forest lawsuit settlement agreement. That agreement assigned about 560,000 acres to be managed under the recommended wilderness category. The agency’s proposed action for wilderness recommendation, which is actually two proposals, ranges from 234,000 to 328,000 acres.

“We hope the agency takes bold steps towards protecting the entire roadless base of the drainage by recommending areas for Wilderness or creating administrative non-motorized and nonmechanized backcountry designations,” said Gary Macfarlane, Ecosystem Defense Director for Friends of the Clearwater. “Places like Weitas Creek and Pot Mountain offer some of the best habitat in the entire drainage for ungulates and carnivores and are in need of protection as Wilderness.”

Furthermore, the group contends the Forest Service proposal does nothing to address changes necessary in order to preserve designated Wilderness. Haverstick stated, “On the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the Forest Service should have proposed meaningful measures to better protect places like the Selway-Bitterroot and Gospel-Hump Wildernesses.

Other components of the alternative center around increasing old-growth habitat, managing for a diversity of forest-types and habitats, and allowing fire, insects and disease to fulfill their ecological niche. This contrasts with the agency’s proposed action, which would industrialize the national forests through massive increases in logging. The proposal would also damage watersheds by effectively rendering meaningless current streamside protection buffers.

“This alternative takes a scientific approach to forest management and allows natural processes like fire, beetle infestation and disease to do what they have been doing for millions of years— create diverse, healthy fish and wildlife habitats,” said Haverstick. “A resilient forest has large extents of unmanaged old growth-habitat, and also contains a wide diversity of habitat components such as snags, down logs and patches of dead and dying trees leading to natural regeneration all across the forest,” he added.

When it comes to agency accountability and restoring areas in the Clearwater River drainage, the group is very concerned with the potential for the agency to weaken or remove existing enforceable standards and monitoring efforts that prioritize protecting fragile soils, clean water and habitat. “The Forest Service’s proposed action retreats from enforceable standards to protect watersheds or wildlife habitat. Instead, it offers flowery language with no substance,” Haverstick said.

“Management of our national forests must include strong, enforceable standards that hold the agency accountable to ensure soils, waters and wildlife and fish habitat are not degraded by overemphasis on resource extraction,” said Macfarlane. “If monitoring data reveals that current conditions are not being met, then proposed activities must not move forward until those standards are achieved. Unfortunately, by almost every measure, this initial proposal is far worse than the existing plans for the Clearwater and Nez Perce National Forests.”

The release of the Forest Service’s proposed action is supposed to be the initial stage of formal public involvement under the National Environmental Policy Act. At this stage, the process must be open to public input and suggested alternatives. Macfarlane concluded, “We will see if the Forest Service is really interested in public accountability and following the law when the formal draft environmental impact statement is released in several months.”

Read the Outline of Friends of the Clearwater’s Citizen Conservation Biology Alternative for the Nez Perce – Clearwater National Forests Plan Revision

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About The Author

Brett Haverstick

Brett Haverstick is the Education & Outreach Director for Friends of the Clearwater, a public lands advocacy group in Moscow, Idaho. He has a Masters of Natural Resources from the University of Idaho. In his personal time, he manages the project Speak for Wolves. The views expressed here are his own.

3 Responses to Friends of the Clearwater Offers Citizen Alternative for Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests Revision

  1. avatar Gary Humbard says:

    In order for some of these lands to become designated wilderness areas requires congressional approval. In a state like Idaho, I doubt there is a member of Congress who would introduce a bill for that purpose.

    The Forest Service can designate areas to be protected through administrative procedures. If there is constant pressure from groups and the public, the Forest Service will eventually get the message.

    The Forest Service tends to be a very bureacratic institution (inefficent) which results in minimal impacts to the environment in the big picture.

    • avatar Harry Jageman says:

      Thanks Brett,

      I agree that anyone who is interested in our public lands and our remaining roadless areas here in Idaho and across the United States, needs to pay attention to what is going on with the Nez Perce-Clearwater Forest Plan Revision. What is happening here will soon be coming to a National Forest near you!

      The proposal is culmination of several ongoing efforts which are designed to weaken our current environmental laws and increase the amount of logging on our National Forests. The proposal was completed under the much touted but poorly understood collaborative process and is basically the same alternative that was proposed by the Clearwater Basin Collaborative over one year ago. It has its roots in Idaho Roadless rule that came up with the designation of “back-country restoration” as way to authorize any form of logging within most of Idaho’s 9.3 million acres of roadless land.

      The plan would open most of the existing roadless areas (0.9 to 1.2 million acres of the available 1.5 million) to logging under the standards of the very weak Idaho Roadless Rule. A few areas would be recommended for wilderness, but all of the proposed wilderness designations include “cherry stem” motorized use corridors that would be excluded from the wilderness recommendations. Don’t you just love the solitude that this would bring?

      Timber harvest would be tripled from the current level of about 58 million to 150 million and most all standards for the protection of fish, wildlife and water quality would be eliminated. For example, logging that is now restricted due to PACFISH and INFISH rules would now be allowed in streamside areas.

      People only have 60 days to give the Forest Service their comments. So now is the time to let the Forest Service know what you think. Are these the protections you envisioned when you heard about the “Idaho Roadless Rule” and the Forest Service’s new collaborative process?

      Sorry Gary, if I don’t share your sentiments about the bureaucratic Forest Service cutting trees and building roads. They have proved they are pretty good at in the past and without any standards in the Forest Plan, I’m betting they can do it again!

  2. avatar Janice Sampo says:

    Keep roadless areas in our public lands!

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