2013 Annual Letter

Dear Friend,                                                                                                                               December 2013     

The night and early morning of August 5 and 6, 2013 was an experience not to be forgotten. A few hundred people, most of them Nez Perce, gathered along Highway 12 just east of Lewiston, Idaho to protest the invasion of their homeland by a subsidiary of General Electric, which was illegally hauling a giant piece of equipment bound for the tar sands in Alberta. The highway parallels the Clearwater River, which is the heart of the Nez Perce country. What a night it was.

It has been over three long years since Friends of the Clearwater (FOC), along with the Nez Perce Tribe, local residents in the upper Clearwater, led by Fighting Goliath, Idaho Rivers United (IRU), Advocates for the West, the Sierra Club, All Against the Haul, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, activists from Northern Rockies Rising Tide and Wild Idaho Rising Tide, and others began coordinating efforts to say NO to megaloads along the Clearwater River, including the wild and scenic corridor of the Middle Fork Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers.

Lately, FOC’s role has been one of watchdogging the state process. Meanwhile, IRU and the Nez Perce Tribe challenged the Forest Service in federal court and won an important victory, for which they were honored at FOC’s annual meeting in November. Indeed, Brooklyn Baptiste of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee was correct when he told the large crowd the latest court victory is just one skirmish in a longer effort to keep the area from becoming an industrialized high and wide corridor.

Your support and love of wild country have made these latest successes—and others—possible. Please consider making a year-end contribution to help FOC continue to safeguard the wild Clearwater country. We intend on being around as long as wild country is threatened. Your considerate donation will go toward ongoing campaigns that are crucial in protecting this still-wild landscape.

Other 2013 Accomplishments 

Working in tandem with Wilderness Watch, we were able to prevent the Forest Service from entering the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness with a helicopter to replace a bridge originally built without motorized equipment. The Forest Service agreed with our appeal and decided to use traditional skills and tools instead.

FOC and others successfully appealed the decision of the Forest Service to allow extensive mineral operations to occur in the South Fork Clearwater without doing an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement. The decision to proceed with the Friday Minerals project was withdrawn as a result.

The North Fork Clearwater is currently free from the threat of placer mining. The Forest Service said no to mining and we supported the agency in that positive decision. Judge Holt, an administrative law judge from the Interior Department then ruled in favor of the public and the agency. This voided recently staked mining claims.

FOC’s work with EarthJustice and other organizations on protection for the wolverine resulted in the US Fish and Wildlife Service announcing a proposal that wolverines should be listed under the Endangered Species Act. This is an important step, though some state fish and game agencies, whose policies allowed the wolverine to become endangered in the first place, are opposing it. In addition, FOC joined several other organizations in a petition to list the fisher under the Endangered Species Act. Your active support, participation and financial contributions have made all of this possible!


2014 And Beyond

FOC was recently joined by Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Sierra Club in a lawsuit against the Clearwater National Forest Travel Plan. Key backcountry roadless areas like Pot Mountain and Weitas Creek, which contain critical wildlife habitat, were not closed to motor vehicles. We expect a decision on our lawsuit in 2014.

The ongoing saga of forest planning will continue. The Forest Service is yet again attempting to revise the 1987 Clearwater National Forest Plan and the 1987 Nez Perce National Forest Plan. A forest plan sets policy for forest management on a particular forest. Since both national forests have been administratively combined, the forest plans for the two forests will become one plan. We have been preparing for this revision process for many years and have already submitted important data and proposals to protect key resources, including vast roadless areas that should be proposed for wilderness. We stand ready to challenge any process or results not in the best interest of the public or equally of the land, water, and wildlife itself.

FOC recently joined with the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, the Sierra Club, and Selkirk Conservation Alliance in objecting to the newly revised forest plan for the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. These forests include the Little North Fork Clearwater River and part of Mallard-Larkins. The Forest Service issued a draft decision, under a new process, and won’t come out with a final decision for months.

We will continue to oppose an exchange for the upper Lochsa lands, and instead, seek a purchase option, which will return the land to public ownership. That is the only viable option from the standpoint of ecosystem health, integrity and survival. FOC will also continue working with Western Lands Project and the Friends of the Palouse Ranger District in opposing a bad deal for the public. As we have told Senator Risch’s staff, the Senator from Idaho leading an effort to short circuit the administrative review process, the only thing worse and more controversial than the administrative exchange proposed by the Forest Service would be a legislative land exchange. A useful role for Congress would be in helping facilitate a purchase, not legislating an exchange. Legislative exchanges have almost always favored special interests over the public interest.

We will continue our efforts to keep water clean. FOC is currently involved in a lawsuit concerning a wetland near Lawyer Creek, a key tributary to the Clearwater River. We hope to have a resolution of this issue in 2014.

FOC will continue to provide high-quality educational events, materials and volunteer opportunities for members. Our outreach program is expanding and we will increase intern opportunities in 2014.

Some foundation donors often overlook small, effective groups like us. Therefore, we greatly rely on your generous financial support. Please take this moment to contemplate your gift–be it $25, $50, $100 or another amount–and return it in the enclosed envelope. Your contributions will go towards safeguarding wild forests of the Clearwater, ensuring that fishers, wolves, lynx and Chinook salmon still have homes.

We thank you for your efforts, whether it be writing letters to public officials or engaging in public processes. This makes a real difference. Together, we’ll move forward and provide meaningful protection for the wild Clearwater country. We thank you in advance for your gift and look forward to hearing from you soon!

For the Wild,

Gary Macfarlane                                                        Brett Haverstick 

Ecosystem Defense Director                                     Education and Outreach Director     


P.S.  We know economic conditions are not good for most people. Friends of the Clearwater is a lean group and we stretch our small budget to the limit. Your help is vital. We greatly appreciate any support you can offer. We thank you on behalf of wild places in the Clearwater region.


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