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Cove-Mallard Redux

The elusive wolverine is one of the many wild species that uses the Cove-Mallard Roadless Area as a corridor between wilderness. Photo by Tambako The Jaguar on Flickr.

Over 30-years ago, the Forest Service approved a series of massive timber sales in the Cove-Mallard Roadless Areas. What followed was publicity by FOC founder Steve Paulson, years of organizing by various grassroots groups, lawsuits, and on-the-ground civil disobedience. Past issues of our newsletter, the Defender, covered this history with the earliest issues covering the conflict in real time. The final result was the canceling of the biggest and most remote timber sales in the country because of citizen action. Before the end, though, contractors logged and roaded several thousand acres, or about 20% of the two roadless areas.

The citizens resisting the destruction of Cove-Mallard Roadless Areas raised the profile of similar threats to roadless areas across the entire U.S., resulting in President Clinton directing the Forest Service to institute a Roadless Rule. Finally adopted in 2001, the Rule contained loopholes for logging and in 2008 the Forest Service issued an even weaker Idaho Roadless Rule. At the time, it was thought that these loopholes would be rarely used and only on the fringe of areas.

A culvert-based blockade during the Cove-Mallard actions in the 90s.

Cove-Mallard is a lower elevation wedge bordering the narrow portion of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and should have been included in the Wilderness legislation was passed in 1980. It provides crucial habitat connectivity between the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Being somewhat gentler terrain than the more rugged portions of the Main Salmon River, it is richer in old growth and associated wildlife species.

Now, the Forest Service is proposing Dixie-Comstock, a timber sale that would log and burn approximately 700 acres of the Cove-Mallard Roadless Areas. Though smaller than the previous sales, it would still damage the crucial area. The Forest Service is using an exception to normal public involvement slipped into the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act by timber lobbyists, which shortcuts the window for public input to a mere thirty days. Worse, this exception also allows the Forest Service to ignore all protections in existing Land and Resource Management (Forest) Plans under the guise of responding to an “Emergency” situation largely identified as threat of fire. Ironically where the Forest Service is proposing to log the roadless area was mostly burned in recent years, making it obvious there is no real emergency. Further, in 2021, the Forest Service proposed and implemented a much smaller-scale project that was based on the best available science that recognizes actions reducing fire risk are only effective near the structures themselves. It involved removing lower limbs of trees and pruning within about 40 meters of buildings. It did not threaten the roadless areas. The agency was praised by conservation groups for adopting such an approach.


The “emergency” declaration is just a ruse to excuse logging the Roadless Areas. It is important to write or call the Forest Service and express strong opposition to their dishonesty. Comments can be submitted online at:


Phone number: 208-935-2513. Please request the call recipient to document the conversation so you may access it in the future.

Some points to consider in your comments on Dixie-Comstock (deadline is March 7):

1- The area has already burned in a diverse, mosaic pattern. There is little threat from a new fire. There is no emergency and this proposal is an abuse of existing law.

2- The area is healthy. The excuse that it isn’t is disproven by the fact the lodgepole pine dominated forest has recently gone through a fire cycle. This is how that forest type has evolved.

3- Research shows that logging after a burn does considerable damage to soils and watersheds.

3- No logging should occur in the roadless area.

4- prevailing winds dictate that any fire would burn from outside the roadless area toward Dixie. Logging the roadless area makes no sense.

5- The Forest Service should re-implement the 2001 Dixie Fuel Break project. This was a science-based approach to the issue. Research by a Forest Service researcher shows that anything beyond about 40 meters form a structure is ineffective.

6- Landowners in the area need to implement fire-wise measures on their property. That is the best way to save structures.

7- Logging can actually increase the risk of wildfire fire by removing the most fire resistant large trees and leaving flammable slash and opening up the forest to wind, which drives fires.