Interesting, a move up from collaborationism-

Idaho has more roadless, undeveloped national forest land than any other state but Alaska.  Compared to most other western states only a modest portion of this has been protected as designated Wilderness. The rest was allocated into various categories in an initiative pushed by Jim Risch during his brief governorship of Idaho. This was done under the Bush version of the roadless rule, which modified the roadless rule originally issued in the last months of the Clinton Administration. Idaho and Colorado were the only states to do this. Colorado’s effort is not complete.

This allocation of Idaho roadless lands is final and now part of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Several conservation groups in Idaho were willing to go along with this (Trout Unlimited, Idaho Conservation League). Because the process had fully played out, I doubted a lawsuit would happen. However, a major lawsuit was just filed. It includes some of the groups who were enthusiasts for the “collaborative” Owyhee Initiative which will probably soon become law.

News story on the lawsuit. Conservation groups sue over Idaho roadless plan. By Jessie L. Bonner.  Associated Press Writer

News release from the Wilderness Society. Idaho Roadless Rule Challenged in Federal Court. Note that the same release was issued by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, The Lands Council, the Sierra Club and the NRDC.

Blog. Wilderness Society sues to stop Risch roadless rule for Idaho. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman. Here Barker explains the basics and bemoans the defection of the Wilderness Society away from collaboration.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

16 Responses to Conservation groups sue over Idaho roadless lands

  1. kt says:

    All I can think is that The Wilderness Society and Sierra Club in Idaho take a greatly different view of forested country than they do of that “worthless” arid lowere elevation SAGEBRUSH. They view sagebrush as disposable and expendable.

    Both TWS Craig Gehrke and the Middle Snake Sierra Club ardently supported the Owyhee Initiative, which “released” 200,000 acres of BLM Wilderness Study Areas in the Owyhee Canyonlands. BLM WSAs are BLM ROADLESS lands. Why does removal of some Forest Service roadless areas rate a lawsuit – yet sagebrush habitats essential for sage grouse and pygmy rabbits get thrown under the bus?

    And the next question is: As the Wilderness Production machine churns out another Boulder-White Clouds bill —- How many acres of BLM WSAs will these same folks again nonchalantly feel free to “release” – including to intensified cattle “development” for the Hewlett heiress who owns the Mountain Springs hobby ranch? More sagebrush sacrifice so they can slap a wilderness brand on a higher elevation rockpile or lodgepole pine patch somewhere?

  2. kt,

    One of the major things here, not reported, is the role of the Sage Creek roadless area on the Idaho/Wyoming border.

    Here Simplot wants to expand their Smoky Canyon phosphate strip/pit mine. This mine, and the rest of the vast phosphate mines in the phosphate fields between Soda Springs, Idaho and the Wyoming border, are potent producers of selenium — mercury’s equally evil twin.

    The GYC has waged a long battle against expansion of these mines, much to their credit.

    The Clinton roadless rule and the Sage Creek roadless area which is actually just a small area, have been key to the roadless controversy in Idaho (on both sides of the issue).

    This mine is so important to Simplot that I think all of the allocation of roadless areas in Eastern Idaho was skewed to facilitate this mine.

    At the last minute they added greater protection to many of the roadless areas in Eastern Idaho just to make sure that Sage Creek roadless area got developed.

  3. . . . we are doubly dammed here in Eastern Idaho. We get mercury from the gold fields of northern Nevada. From the east we get selenium from the phosphate fields of the Idaho/Wyoming border and air pollution in Pocatello and Soda Springs from the phosphate processing plants.

    Here is a photo of the Simplot processing plant at Pocatello. As they like to say most of plume is steam, but a critical amount of it isn’t.

  4. Salle says:

    That “steam” in the picture, obvious taken on a day when the wind was calm and there were no inversion effects in the valley to the right, is the “pretty picture” version of this place. When there are temperature inversion conditions in Pocatello Valley, the air is a dark cloud of stuff that makes you feel like you were whacked in the face with a dusty bag of garden/grass fertilizer as soon as you step outside the door. Quite often it isn’t visible but you can still taste and smell it any time of year.

    And about ten or more years back, there was a large “slurry line” ~ a pipeline ~ underground that made an ugly strip of obviously exotic flora that runs from Soda Springs area to this plant on the NW edge of the valley. And all those poison rail cars that run along the rivers.

  5. kt says:

    So are you saying the groups aren’t really concerned about what is essentially “release” of many of the other Forest roadless areas – and that the phosphate mining is at the heart of the reason for the lawsuit? Does that mean they will settle the suit – and let the other roadless areas go – if the phosphate minable lands remain roadless? Did they not care about “release” of the other roadless lands?

    I just can’t see why the same groups who were thrilled at releasing 200,000 acres (over 300 square miles) of WSA land to all manner of future development in the Owyhees are up on such a high horse over the Risch Forest Roadless area “release” – which is the equivalent to WSA release. Note also that the BLM WSA mgmt is MORE protective than USFS “roadless” mgmt).

    These same folks also have 80,000 acres or more of biodiversity rich sagebrush lands in central Idaho in their crosshairs for “release” as a bargaining chip to get rocks and ice wilderness in the Boulder-White Clouds, and likely more acres too if the wilderness dealing keeps churning along.

    That is one evil-looking smokestack photo!

  6. Mike says:

    That description of being hit i nthe face with “grass fertilizer in the air” is not good.

    I’ve never understood this compulsive human behaviour to spray chemicals on everything. Hilariously, our technology isn’t good enough to understand the complete side effects of these chemical products. Some say it’s safe within the paramters of our limited testing abilities but that means nothing. Every year it seems we find out about another chemical that we “slipped up on” and didn’t quite understand. Doh! It’s because our testing technology is ancient. Wake me up in five hundred years and then tell me a chemical has been test and is safe.

    I feel sorry for anone who walks out of their door and gets hit with that kind of thing. It’s bad enough for me here in the burbs with the lawn companies charging people to spray toxins everywhere.

    We aren’t very bright sometimes.

  7. Salle says:

    I think some of those garden/lawn spray products are derived from this stuff, it sometimes smells like those. It’s hard to drive by the place, it’s best to put your vents on recirculate, if you can, roll up the windows AND hold your breath.

    Their are a lot of illness within the valley population, probably related. It seems that for some political reason, nothing the public need be concerned about, many of the toxins in the air monitoring at least, aren’t on EPA’s list or are considered “insignificant”.

  8. Salle says:

    Here’s an interesting article I just stumbled upon:

  9. RockyBarker says:

    Thanks for the link Salle. The story underscores how all of us face the challenge of thinking different and working differently to get us and the species we care about through the upcoming climate bottleneck.

  10. KT wrote,
    “So are you saying the groups aren’t really concerned about what is essentially “release” of many of the other Forest roadless areas – and that the phosphate mining is at the heart of the reason for the lawsuit? Does that mean they will settle the suit – and let the other roadless areas go – if the phosphate minable lands remain roadless? Did they not care about “release” of the other roadless lands?”
    – – – –
    KT, I wouldn’t go that far, but I do know from attending the local hearings on the Risch roadless initiative that here in SE Idaho that the mine was by far and away the biggest issue at the meetings.

    Private conservations with decision-makers led me to believe they were willing and did offer more protection for other areas in order to secure this mine. Ralph M

  11. Debra K says:

    I had a problem from the start when Bush instigated this “state’s rights” way to deal with roadless areas. It seemed to violate basic federal principles to allow a state to manage roadless areas on federal lands that happened to be in its boundaries.

    Why should a rancher in Challis ID really have more say on what happens on the Challis NF than a nurse in Albany NY?She pays her federal taxes (probably a LOT more than the rancher), and has as much ownership interest in the federal lands.

    Why should a wolverine in FS Region 1 have roadless areas protected in MT, but not when it crosses the arbitrary ID boundary?

    As far as I’m concerned, the whole ID Roadless she-bang should be invalidated; go back to the Clinton Roadless Rule.

    This certainly doesn’t excuse the travesty of the “collaborative” OI, which is a backwards step to letting ranchers undermine the best available science, and releases from protection a lot of beautiful and valuable wildlife habitat.

  12. kt says:

    Debra K – Yes, I agree. Why should an artificial state and often straight line boundary dictate which roadless areas get axed?

    Isn’t it time that we kept whole ALL remaining roadless and WSA areas? Plus started ripping out roading and things like livestock facilities that result in a proliferation of access and maintenance two tracks, too?

    Ralph – Wasn’t one of Dirk Kempthorne’s only real-world jobs a brief stint as a PR guy or something for phosphate mining – or do I remember this wrong?

    And of course – the Idaho Governor Butch Otter is Simplot Phosphate’s ex-son-in-law.

    And in Idaho a very few Big Players determine all that happens. Simplot (cow methane air polluting and public lands destroying part of the empire) enters into the Owyhee Initiative, too. Areas of critical sage grouse WSAs in the Owyhee to be “released” – i. e. opened to development – are grazed by … You Guessed It – Simplot. So on “roadless” National Forest lands we have TWS and Sierra Club standing up to Simplot. In the Owyhee, in the apparently expendable sagebrush country – we have them caving …

  13. Salle says:

    And isn’t Simplot the largest private land-holder in the state? Already? And they need grazing and all that on public land?

  14. kt says:

    Simplot is the largest public lands welfare rancher in the West, and the largest in Idaho as well.

    Simplot welfare public lands cows graze around a million acres in Owyhee County and a tad of Twin Falls County. Simplot is by far the largest grazer in Owyhee County.

    Simplot is the main beneficiary of the Owyhee Initiative. Some important WSA lands grazed by Simplot are released. One of the grazing buyouts will get rid of a competitor rancher and leave Simplot the only party grazing in portions of the Battle Creek allotment and some other areas.

    They graze in Burley BLM lands, too. Also have permits on the Humboldt-Toiyabe Forest in Nevada on Jarbdige and Mountain City Ranger Districts. Permits on Elko BLM land in the North Fork Humbolt River country. Permits near Pilot Peak, permits in eastern Utah (which at one point they were trying to sell – don’t know what became of that – maybe they caused too much cheagrass and halogeton for even a Simplot cow to get by on), permits in eastern Oregon near Lakeview.

  15. Debra K says:

    kt, I also hear that Simplot or a related entity may hold several grazing permits on the Boise NF near Tripod Peak in Bull Trout habitat. Will be doing further inquiry.

  16. Salle says:

    Here’s a video from the NOW program from PBS. It interviews stakeholders in the issue over the mine that kt and Ralph have been discussing.

    I like the program as it has great merit, especially compared to the usual reporting we now see as the norm.


January 2009


‎"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