MOSCOW, ID-Yesterday afternoon, the honorable Judge Edward Lodge ruled on the legal challenge brought forth by Friends of the Clearwater, Palouse Group-Sierra Club and Alliance for the Wild Rockies on the Clearwater National Forest Travel Plan. The plaintiffs challenged the sufficiency of the federal agencies’ analysis and the lack of compliance with executive orders on minimizing off-road vehicle impacts. Judge Lodge ruled that the Forest Service failed to adequately protect wildlife habitat and, indeed, had not minimized impacts from off-road vehicles.
Attorney for the groups, David Bahr, said, “We are pleased that the judge agreed with us that the travel plan does not use the best available science to protect elk and does not minimize motorized use impacts as the law requires.”
The 38-page ruling clearly addresses the failings of the Forest Service’s decision. The plaintiffs believe that the ruling will result in greater protection for wildlands and wildlife on the Clearwater National Forest.
Gary Macfarlane, of Friends of the Clearwater, stated, “This is great news for the public wildlands on the Clearwater National Forest. Places like Cayuse Creek and Fish & Hungery Creeks deserve protection and the ruling reflects that.”
“This is an important ruling for wildlife in the Clearwater. Wildlife habitat needs to be adequately protected from motorized intrusion, whether its via roads or trails,” added Al Poplawsky with the Palouse-Group Sierra Club.
Judge Lodge ruled that the agency did not use the best available science in making its decision, as outlined in the 1997 Interagency Guidelines for Evaluating and Managing Elk Habitats and Populations in Central Idaho.
“The Forest Service needs to implement the best available science in measuring off-road vehicle impacts to species like elk,” said Brett Haverstick with Friends of the Clearwater. “The agency failed to apply the appropriate measures in order to comply with 100% Elk Habitat Effectiveness.”
Besides negative impacts to terrestrial species like elk, plaintiffs were also concerned about off-road vehicle impacts to aquatic species on the forest.
“Thanks to the members of Friends of the Clearwater for working hard to bring stronger protections to Clearwater Country,” said Mike Garrity with the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “It’s important that the Forest Service follow the law and protect critical habitat for species like bull trout, too.”