Local Organizations Sue to Protect
Wildlife Habitat and Watersheds
On October 23, 2018, Friends of Rapid River, a local group of concerned citizens in Pollock, Idaho, and Friends of the Clearwater, headquartered in Moscow, Idaho, filed suit in federal court in Idaho to protect the wildlife habitat in the Little Salmon and Rapid River drainages from a large logging project that went through minimal environmental review.
The groups are challenging the Forest Service’s approval of Windy Shingle, which would log 2510 acres within the watershed of Rapid River. The project includes massive clear-cutting and roadwork covering just over 58 miles, including over 5 miles of new so-called temporary roads.
The area consists of large grassy openings interspersed with forests. The citizens are concerned heavy logging would remove needed cover for elk and other species that need older forested habitats. The two groups claim in the suit that the Forest Service’s approval of this project violates the National Forest Management Act, which requires the Forest Service to abide by its forest plans regarding protection of habitat. For example, the suit quotes from the Nez Perce National Forest Plan, which requires the agency to, “[v]erify the quality, amount, and distribution of existing and replacement old-growth habitat as part of project planning;” and, that old-growth stands will be “inventoried and prioritized [for retention] with highest priority for inventory in those drainages with proposed timber sales or other activities that could adversely impact old growth.” In particular, the forest plan identifies pileated woodpecker, goshawk, fisher and marten and indicator species of old growth habitat. The suit also asserts that the project approval violates the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to adequately look at the changed condition of this proposed timber sale in light of the recent fires.
“We, Friends of Rapid River, are concerned about keeping old growth and older forests for elk cover. This area is already diverse with large natural openings for grazing and foraging. Elk need the remaining forested areas,” stated Ray Petersen.
Gary Macfarlane of Friends of the Clearwater said, “Species like marten, fisher, and goshawks need old forests. However, the cursory analysis does not demonstrate that the timber sale meets the forest plan requirements to protect those species. In addition, the changes to the area from the Rattlesnake Fire have not been properly considered as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.” Macfarlane concluded, “It appears the Forest Service rushed through the process by using a cookie-cutter approach that does not apply to the landscape.”
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