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Idaho only state exempt from new roadless directive

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called a one-year halt today to any road construction or timber removal on national forests under the roadless area conservation rule without his personal approval - but the new directive exempts Idaho. That’s because Idaho already has a plan for roadless forests, though it’s being challenged in court. “What they’re saying is, ‘Well, Idaho has their plan and we’re accepting their plan, but everybody else, we’re going to do this one-year deal,’” said Brad Hoaglun, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Jim Risch. “Idaho is the only state.” Hoaglun said Colorado has been working on a roadless plan, but unlike Idaho, didn’t get it all the way through the federal rules process. Risch made the roadless plan a priority when he served briefly as governor of Idaho in 2006.

Vilsack said in a press release, “This interim directive will provide consistency and clarity that will help protect our national forests until a long-term roadless policy reflecting President Obama’s commitment is developed.” The directive applies to all inventories roadless areas in national forests and grasslands - except those in Idaho. It lasts for a year, but could then be renewed for another year. Click below to read the full statement from Risch and Sen. Mike Crapo applauding the treatment of Idaho in the move.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 
May 28, 2009                                                                            
 
IDAHO EXEMPTED FROM NEW ROADLESS DIRECTIVE

SENATORS PLEASED THAT IDAHO PLAN STAYS INTACT

Boise, ID – Idaho Senator Jim Risch says he is pleased that a new U.S. Forest Service directive on roadless areas will exclude Idaho.   U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that no road construction or timber removal will take place on National Forests under the Roadless Area Conservation Rule without approval from the Secretary for one year.

“Idahoans worked hard through a collaborative process to put together a roadless plan that made sense for our state.  It was a plan crafted by a variety of wildland users and interest groups that built in higher levels of protection for some lands that truly deserved it, and allowed multiple use of other lands where it fit.  This is how conflicts in public lands management should be resolved, and not by politics and a “one size fits all” approach by those in Washington, D.C.,” said Risch.

 “We certainly prefer locally-crafted public lands management policy and appreciate that the Idaho Roadless Rule has gained Administration acceptance,” said Senator Mike Crapo.  “I applaud the collaborative efforts that Senator Risch undertook while Governor and believe that this is yet another example of how these policies can be best developed.”

In 2006 then-Governor Risch created five management themes for the 9.3 million acres of Idaho roadless areas based on local and statewide input.  Nearly 1.5 million acres of land received the “wild land recreation” designation, prohibiting roadbuilding, mining and timber harvest in those areas.  Approximately 1.8 million acres were designated as “primitive,” which allow some timber harvesting only for forest health or species habitat improvement.

Over 48,000 acres were set aside for historic or tribal significance and 5.3 million acres were classed as “backcountry/restoration” areas.  On these lands temporary roads could only be built to improve species habitat or to reduce fuels in areas near at-risk communities.  The “general forest, rangeland and grassland” category had 406,000 acres and only allows for timber harvest and road building if it met requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The plan was submitted to the U.S. Forest Service for rulemaking and public comment.  The plan was modified to prohibit commercial logging in some areas, a change supported by Risch, and in late 2008 the rule was published in the Federal Register.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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