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An analysis of the Nez Perce – Clearwater National Forests Revision Plan

The Northern Rocky Mountains bioregion of the U.S. encompasses one of America’s last strongholds of native biodiversity. As far as we know, it contains virtually all the species present at the time of the Lewis & Clark Expedition over two hundred years ago, including grizzly bear, wolverine, lynx, and fisher. At nearly 5 million acres, the public lands of the Clearwater River drainage and other surrounding wildlands are the northern half of the Big Wild, the largest intact ecosystem in the continental United States. This ecosystem lies within the larger Northern Rockies bioregion and has the most tremendous diversity, from low-elevation habitat with coastal disjunct species in wet cedar forests to wind swept ridges with whitebark pines on mountain peaks. Read the full report below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New Proposed Forest Plan Falls Short

At long last, the Forest Service has released its second proposed action in the last ten years for the forest plan revisions for the Nez Perce and Clearwater National Forests. Forest plans are intended to guide national forest management for a decade, with fifteen years as an upper limit. The recent administrative combination of the two forests has led to the Forest Service decision to combine the two plans into one. Disappointingly, the proposal does a disservice to the wildlands of the Clearwater region and the citizens of this country by proposing a plan short on accountability and long on platitudes. Currently, both forests have individual plans that far better protect water quality, fish habitat and wildlife habitat than would this proposal, in spite of the fact those plans are outdated (1987). This is the first stage of public involvement. A second stage will occur when the Forest Service releases a draft environmental impact statement expected sometime in 2015.

 

Issue #1: Public input to date

  • Forest revision collaborative excludes most Americans
  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires objective analysis of alternatives
  • Clearwater Basin Collaborative confuses the issue further

Issue #2: Roadless areas and recommended wilderness

  • Paltry acreage recommended (both option A/B)
  • Recommendation excludes critically important areas (Example: Weitas Creek)
  • Special Management Areas offer weak protection for Meadow Creek and Cayuse Creek
  • Need for non-motorized and non-mechanized backcountry designation

Issue #3: Fishery-watershed protection

  • Streamside buffers must be maintained (PACFISH-INFISH)
  • Upper sediment limits must not be exceeded
  • Sensitive soils and steep slopes must remain off-limits to development
  • Plan revision must include quantitative and enforceable standards

Issue #4: Wildlife habitat-species of concern

  • Must adopt robust list of focal species
  • Need thorough population monitoring program
  • Proposed Species of Conservation Concern wrongfully omits the grizzly bear
  • Plan revision must include quantitative and enforceable standards

Issue #5: Timber program

  • 58-150 million board feet annually is unsustainable
  • No logging can be permitted in roadless areas, riparian areas, and areas prone to landslides
  • Timber salvage operations must consider other resource values
  • Plan revision must include quantitative and enforceable standards

Issue #6: Transportation planning

  • Road management objectives must decrease road density on the national forests
  • 300 miles of decommissioning roads over life of the plan is not enough
  • 400 miles of new and/or reconstructed roads over life of the plan is too much
  • Must not be any motorized access into roadless areas

Other Issues Importance:

  • Wild & Scenic River recommendations
  • Research Natural Area proposals
  • Land Exchange program
  • Grazing program
  • Energy development (Bio-fuels)
  • Middle Fork Clearwater/Lochsa River corridor (Megaloads)
  • No privatization-transfer of federal public lands to any entity

 

Download a copy of our full Action Alert.

A Call to Action: Plan Revisions for the Nez Perce and Clearwater National Forests.PDF

Read our Guest Opinion, Why Clearwater country deserves better