Truce Is Reached in Battle Over Idaho Forest Land

The final roadless area rule for Idaho has been released.

There are many improvements in the rule, especially in Eastern Idaho where I live.

When President Bush tried to overturn the Clinton roadless rule (protecting all the national forest roadless areas as what you might call “backcountry” or sorts), western governors were invited to develop a plan for their states’ national forest roadless areas.

Idaho has more national forest roadless, non-Wilderness land than any other state — over 9-million acres. Conservationists feared the worst when Idaho became the only state to accept the Bush Administration’s invitation.

Now that’s it’s down, I can’t say that it is all that bad. I would rather see Congress designate many of these areas as Wilderness. I’d like to see off-road vehicles under more restraint, but neither the Clinton rule or Idaho’s new rule addresses that.

The major controversy turned out to be the Sage Creek roadless area in SE Idaho,  a small roadless area near the Wyoming border.  A massive phosphate strip/pit mine is planned to expand into the area, and from start to finish Idaho state government and the Bush Administration has made sure the current roadless nature of the Sage Creek roadless area would NOT be maintained. After all this is a Simplot mine.

There are many phosphate strip pits in SE Idaho and they are now leaking toxic amounts of selenium into the streams. This is no trivial matter. The fish in the mountain stream are dying, and selenium is a threat of acquifers and agriculture in Idaho and adjacent Wyoming, but perhaps this controversy can be settled in some fashion other than protection as roadless or this roadless area.

The New York Times has a article just out on the roadless rule.

Truce Is Reached in Battle Over Idaho Forest Land. By Felicity Barringer.

It is possible the Forest Service will give most proposed developments in these protectec areas designated as backcountry, wildlands, primitive, etc. a mere wink and a nod, but that is more a matter of who is President than anything else. The nice thing about Wilderness, protected by Act of Congress, is that who is President doesn’t matter. This is one reason to argue over the next President here on this blog, although I can’t say that either candidate is much committed to public lands protection. You have to read between the lines, the speeches, the news releases, their past history, etc.

Below is the final rule. For those interested, it discusses each of the many roadless areas and shows how it will be managed.

Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS)

Once again I urge people to check out for the loction, photos, comments, etc. about all the national forest roadless areas in the United States.


  1. Alan Gregory Avatar

    A primary fact for everyone to remember is this: Whether we are talking about the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania, or the Challis in Idaho, or any other NF for that matter, we are talking about land that’s owned by all Americans. Having said that, I will say that Idaho’s roadless plan could have been a heck of a lot worse. But it’s clear that “conservation” is still not on the political road map like it should be.

  2. MP Avatar

    To see the changes when viewing the FEIS maps, select the Modified Rule Management Themes. The Modified Rule modifies the Proposed Rule. Alternative 4, the Modified Idaho Roadless Rule is the preferred alternative in the Final Environmental Impact Statement.
    The Modified Rule is great news for portions of some roadless areas that were put in the general forest theme. The Modified Rule moves these portions of roadless areas into the more restrictive backcountry restoration theme.
    Several roadless areas on the wildlife rich Caribou-Targhee National Forest have been moved from the least restrictive general forest theme, into the more restrictive backcountry restoration theme, under the Modified Idaho Roadless Rule.

  3. jo Avatar

    about 200,000 acres on the Carbiou-Targhee NF in SE Idaho moved into that more protective category. It still leaves about 200,000 in General Forest.
    More significantly though, is that the ambiguous language from te draft rule that allowed logging for “significant risk” or “forest health” in th 5 million acres of “backcountry restoration” has been removed. Now, roads and fuels reduction logging will be limited to a .5 to 1.5 mile “community protection zone”.


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Ralph Maughan