December 23, 2019
Moscow, ID—Friends of the Clearwater notes the Forest Service could have waited until after the holidays to release its draft plan for public comment. On December 20, the Forest Service released the draft revised plan for the administratively combined Nez Perce – Clearwater National Forests. The two forests currently operate under separate forest plans. “The Forest Service could have waited until after the holidays to release its lump of coal to the public, the fish, wildlife, and watersheds on the Nez Perce and Clearwater National Forests. The proposed plan does a disservice to all concerned about clean water and fish and wildlife habitat,” said Gary Macfarlane, Ecosystem Defense Director for Friends of the Clearwater.
Comments on forest plans require at least a 90-day public comment period. According to Friends of the Clearwater, the first two weeks of the comment period is effectively eliminated by the holidays in part because certain Forest Service employees may be on vacation and can’t be contacted to answer questions the public may have about the plan. A letter was sent, on behalf of twelve organizations and individuals, to request a comment period extension. “Apparently the Forest Service believes only they deserve a peaceful holiday season with family. They expect the public to review this plan, however, over the holidays. If we don’t, we would be shortchanged in the time to review the plan unless a comment extension is granted,” said Brett Haverstick, Education & Outreach Director for Friends of the Clearwater.
The substance of the draft plan also angers conservationists. A quick review of the plan indicates that logging levels and other development would radically increase, which means fish and wildlife habitat would be drastically damaged by the new plan. Furthermore, there are few if any measurable standards to protect fish and wildlife habitat that were included in the current and better plans for the Nez Perce and Clearwater National Forests. “Goodbye steelhead, salmon, fisher, and lynx. As for the grizzly, we barely had time to say hello this past summer,” said Gary Macfarlane.
The Clearwater Basin is the northern half of the wildest landscape left in the lower 48 states. It contains many outstanding and irreplaceable roadless wildlands. Unfortunately, not a single alternative would recommend designation of all 1.5 million acres of roadless wildlands. The premiere wild area on both forests, Weitas and Cayuse, are only recommended in one alternative, and that alternative will most likely not be chosen. There is, however, an alternative that recommends zero wilderness. “The Grinch couldn’t have outdone the Forest Service in its disregard for wild country,” said Brett Haverstick.