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Conservationists Object to Proposed Idaho Panhandle Forest Plan Revisions

Agency plan lacks measurable standards, fails to acknowledge impacts on massive Superfund cleanup

Spokane: November 26, 2013 - Today, a coalition of conservation organizations and individuals filed a formal objection to the draft record of decision (ROD) to the revised Idaho Panhandle National Forest Plan. The group includes Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Sierra Club’s Idaho Chapter and Upper Columbia River Group, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Selkirk Conservation Alliance, Friends of the Clearwater, Paul Sieracki and Barry Rosenberg. The groups and individuals maintain the newly revised forest plan is not accountable to the public and short changes vitally important resources like water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, maintenance of ancient forest and old growth reserves, recommended wilderness, wilderness administration, and wildland values including recreation. The groups and individuals came together to address serious problems on the biologically important Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

The citizens' and citizen organizations' overall objection is the lack of measurable standards upon which to base sound decisions. Jeff Juel, an Alliance for the Wild Rockies member said, “The new revised Forest Plan for the Idaho Panhandle National Forests is not accountable to the citizens who own the national forests. Unlike the current Forest Plan, there are few if any obligatory standards for water quality, wildlife habitat, or other public values to make sure these resources are maintained or improved.”

The Idaho Panhandle is a 2.5 million-acre national forest extending from the St. Joe River to Canada, and encompassing the Idaho Panhandle and a small area of northeastern Washington. The forest area is home to iconic threatened and endangered species, and includes over half of Idaho’s surface water supporting a world class fishery. Liz Sedler said, “The Plan falls far short in protecting habitat for caribou or grizzly.” Adrienne Cronebaugh of the Kootenai Environmental Alliance added, “The Forest Service needs to do right by those of us who live, recreate and fish in the Coeur d’Alene Basin.”

Combining severe watershed damage from logging with massive mine waste pollution causes toxic floods. During severe flood events, up to a million pounds of lead or more flow into Lake Coeur d’Alene and the Spokane River. John Osborn, Spokane physician and chair of Sierra Club’s Upper Columbia River Group, noted, “For 20 years we have encouraged the Forest Service to work with EPA in connecting the Panhandle Forest Plan with EPA’s Superfund cleanup plan. Year after year these two agencies decline to cooperate with each other to reduce the flow of pollution into our communities. The Panhandle Forest Plan is stunningly silent on mine wastes and the Superfund cleanup.”  

The Idaho Panhandle National Forests also contain old forests and wild country. Liz Sedler said, “The revised plan does not protect old forests, rather it allows them to be logged. This is a step backward from the current plan.” Gary Macfarlane of Friends of the Clearwater stated, “Wilderness and wild country were shortchanged in this plan including portions of Mallard-Larkins, especially the remote wild country west of the Little North Fork Clearwater. Indeed, only 18% of the qualifying roadless area acreage was recommended as wilderness.” Longtime citizen activist Barry Rosenberg concluded, “The new plan is a prescription for disaster. It could result in the fish in the streams being replaced by sediment and mine waste.”

Links:

Contacts:

  • Liz Sedler (Alliance for the Wild Rockies) lsedler41@gmail.com
  • John Osborn (Sierra Club) 509-939-1290
  • Adrienne Cronebaugh (Kootenai Environmental Alliance) 208-667-9093
  • Jeff Juel 509-688-5956
  • Gary Macfarlane or Brett Haverstick (Friends of the Clearwater) 208-882-9755
  • Barry Rosenberg 208-699-0843