Nez Perce Tribe files new appeal of Bitterroot timber sale

KEYWORDS: Nez Perce tribe Bitterroot timber sale federal timber sales North Lochsa Face forest restoration project needs of salmon and steelhead Lochsa River logging Clearwater National Forest Canada lynx endangered species habitat nature art print forest art print lynx art print

AUTHOR: Dan Hansen, Spokesman Review Staff writer

The Nez Perce Tribe, which rarely appeals federal timber sales, has filed its second challenge over a single proposal in the Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho.

The tribe worries that the North Lochsa Face “forest restoration project” will foul streams that are important to native fish, tribal chairman Samuel Penney wrote in a press statement on Friday.

The project is designed to fix an area that foresters say is overly packed with stunted trees and brush, while simultaneously providing more browse for a declining elk herd.

Winslow Homer - Hudson River Logging
Hudson River Logging
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“We do not feel that this project has adequately balanced the needs of salmon and steelhead with the needs of elk and timber supply,” Penney wrote.

Several environmental groups also have appealed the plan, which the Forest Service unveiled in December.

The project, bounded on the south by the Lochsa River, covers 128,000 acres. A 2000 version of the same project was derailed by appeals, including the first by the tribe.

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Forest Path
Consuelo Gamboa
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The new plan calls for cutting 42 million board feet of timber from about 4,000 acres. That’s down from 73 million board feet proposed in 2000.

There were other changes that pleased environmentalists: No logging within sight of the route followed 200 years ago by explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, for instance, and no logging in roadless areas.

In addition to logging, the plan calls for burning 12,530 acres and thinning saplings from 995 acres.

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Redwood Forest
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The Forest Service would obliterate 66 miles of unnecessary roads and close 54 miles more. The agency would construct 3.5 miles of temporary roads and reconstruct 1.5 miles of Pete King Road, for use by loggers.

The agency would plant 600 acres of trees along Fish and Pete King creeks.

Penney noted that many tribal members work in timber-dependent industries.

“Despite this appeal, we remain committed to trying to work with the Clearwater National Forest to address the tribe’s concerns with this project and future projects,” he said.

A second appeal was filed by six environmental groups, citing issues similar to those listed by the tribe appeal. Those groups are Friends of the Clearwater; the Ecology Center; Alliance for the Wild Rockies; The Lands Council of Spokane; Idaho Sporting Congress; and the Palouse chapter of the Sierra Club.

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Idaho Conservation League and The Wilderness Society filed a separate appeal. Those groups allege that the Forest Service does not have an accurate inventory of old-growth trees in the Lochsa area, and that some of the logging would occur within the habitat of Canada lynx, an endangered species.

Appeals of Forest Service projects go to the regional forester — in this case, Brad Powell in Missoula. If Powell agrees that a project fails to meet scrutiny, it goes back to the forest for more study.

If an appeal is denied, forest work often moves forward. However, groups have the option of filing suit to override Powell’s decision.


Dan Hansen is a Staff Writer for The Spokesman Review.

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