Environmentalists Challenge Timber Saleby Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune, January 8, 2004
Environmental groups are making good on their word to challenge a timber sale on the Slate Creek Ranger District of the Nez Perce National Forest.
The Moscow-based Friends of the Clearwater authored an appeal to the proposed 20-million-board-feet Clean Slate timber sale that would also obliterate 26 miles of old roads.
The environmental groups Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Sporting Congress, the Ecology Center, Alliance for Wild Rockies and the Lands Council joined the appeal.
Gary Macfarlane, executive director of the Friends of the Clearwater, said his main concerns with the proposed timber sale revolve around the potential for streams already not meeting water quality standards to be polluted from sediment caused by the logging.
Further deterioration of water quality could harm threatened fish including bull trout, salmon and steelhead, according to Macfarlane. He contends the Nez Perce National Forest Plan says the U.S. Forest Service must show streams not meeting water quality standards are improving or on an "upward trend" before logging can occur.
"They predict future upward trends, but in our minds the plan is very specific; it says they will show an upward trend," he said.
Macfarlane also faults the agency for saying the project won't hurt bull trout because there are very few in the area.
"All the more (reason) we should be concerned about water quality in that area because they are so rare," he said.
Jonathan Oppenheimer of the Idaho Conservation League at Moscow said his group is most concerned with a portion of the plan that calls for small clear cuts in an area that is now free of roads. The area, which is adjacent to the Gospel Hump Wilderness Area, is not an official roadless area, according to Forest Service standards. But Oppenheimer says the agency is obligated to study the effects logging as if it were.
"What they have tried to do is just sort of ignore the fact that it's roadless because it's not inventoried, but past courts have found that is not an adequate defense," he said.
The Clean Slate project calls for varying degrees of logging on 2,916 acres within a 15,000-acre analysis area. The purpose of the project is to improve water quality by removing roads and reduce the threat that fire could burn stands of old growth ponderosa pine trees by thinning younger trees. The plan also intends to help white bark pine reestablish in the area by removing competitors such as sub-alpine fir and lodgepole pine trees.
The groups submitted their appeal to the Northern Region headquarters of the Forest Service at Missoula, Mont. Officials there will review the project and decide if it can move forward.
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