As we get set to head into the new year, we wanted to give you one more update on important wildland issues in and around the Clearwater Basin. In this issue, you will receive breaking news concerning the Upper Lochsa Land Exchange, learn about the plan to use aerial gunning on wolves in the Lolo Zone, find out about the latest megaload to traverse US 12, and see how the recent legislative rider passed in the federal budget resolution delays protection for wild bighorn sheep.
In a sudden about face, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) has dropped their support of the Upper Lochsa Land Exchange, citing the land swap doesn’t serve the best interests of their membership. A potential loss of crucial elk habitat, and a loss of public access were the reasons provided for dropping their support of the exchange. The group says they would now prefer to see the 40,000-acre checkerboard lands be acquired through purchase instead.
Meanwhile the Forest Service has announced that they are extending the public comment period deadline another thirty days for the recently released supplemental draft environmental impact statement (SDEIS), which analyzes the Idaho County alternative in the Land Exchange. February 16th is the new deadline for comments. Use this link to view our action alert, and to learn where to send comments:
For those that can make it, the Idaho County Commissioners are meeting in Grangeville Tuesday December 20th at the Courthouse (11am). At that meeting the Special Committee, a citizen panel created to provide more public input to the County Commissioners about the SDEIS, will be submitting a report for the commissioners to review.
The Idaho Fish & Game Department is considering the use of professional trappers and aerial gunning methods to reduce the wolf population in the Lolo Zone of north-central Idaho. The agency wants to bring in trappers from Alaska or Canada, and enlist helicopter gunners from the Wildlife Services later this winter. A total of 162 wolves have been killed in Idaho so far, with public hunting and trapping seasons throughout much of the state lasting until the end of March. Public hunting and trapping of wolves does not end until June 30th in the Selway and Lolo Zones.
On Friday December 16th, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) issued a news release that a company named Selway Corps. was issued a permit to send one megaload along US 12 over the weekend. The final destination of this twenty-two foot wide megaload is Snoqualmie Falls, WA. This marks the fourth corporation to apply for and receive permits from ITD to transport gigantic equipment on US 12, the others being ConocoPhillips, Exxon/Imperial Oil, and Weyerhauser.
It was recently reported that World Logistics Consulting (WLC) has contacted ITD about transporting megaloads across the state of Idaho in the spring of next year. The department has denied knowing any specifics about load dimensions, specific routes, and dates. WLC is a heavy-hauler that has been hired by Harvest Energy Inc., which is heavily invested in the Alberta Tar Sands. The battle to keep US 12 from becoming a permanent industrial corridor is far from over, and we will keep you up to date on this latest inquiry.
In the spirit of keeping with the disastrous trend to make public land decisions via legislative riders, Idaho Congressmen Mike Simpson was able to attach language to the most recent spending bill passed by Congress, delaying the ability of the Forest Service to reduce grazing on the Payette National Forest. After a series of lawsuits, the Forest Service was set to reduce grazing by approximately 70% in the Salmon River Canyon because of the transmission of pneumonia by domestic sheep to wild sheep. This rider delays the implementation of that decision by at least one year. Bighorn populations in the Salmon River Canyon have declined by more than 50% since 1980.
Happy holidays everyone!
Brett & Gary