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Idaho, Clearwater counties file suit over forest travel plan

Idaho and Clearwater counties have filed a federal lawsuit over a Clearwater National Forest travel plan that closed off 200 miles of national forest trails to motorized vehicles, contending the Forest Service didn't adequately consult with local officials when they enacted the plan last year. “We thought we better take a stand,” Clearwater County Commissioner Don Ebert told The Lewiston Tribune (http://bit.ly/1bA6PyL). “We get ran over all the time by the Forest Service. We picked a battle where we think we are on solid ground and hope we will prevail.” Click below for a full report from the Lewiston Tribune via the Associated Press.


2 Idaho counties challenge forest travel plan

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — Two northern Idaho counties have filed a federal lawsuit against a plan that closed off 200 miles of national forest trails to motorized vehicles.

The lawsuit filed Monday by Idaho and Clearwater counties accuses Clearwater National Forest officials of failing to adequately consult with local authorities while drafting the travel plan enacted last year.

County officials also claim forest planners didn't properly analyze the plan's local economic impact and allege the forest created de facto wilderness areas by banning motorcycles and mountain bikes from areas previously recommended for wilderness.

“We thought we better take a stand,” Clearwater County Commissioner Don Ebert told The Lewiston Tribune (http://bit.ly/1bA6PyL). “We get ran over all the time by the Forest Service. We picked a battle where we think we are on solid ground and hope we will prevail.”

Forest officials did not offer an immediate response sought by The Associated Press Tuesday on the new legal challenge.

Commissioners from both counties say they were compelled to file a lawsuit after their administrative appeal of the travel plan was denied by the agency.

The lawsuit is the latest filed against the forest and its 2012 travel policy.

Last week, three environmental groups sued in federal court, contending the forest plan allows too much access for motorized vehicles, a policy they say will ultimately harm wildlife habitat. The environmental groups allege the travel plan violates a 1987 plan by allowing motorized vehicle use in areas the agency had pledged to protect as prime habitat for elk.

Federal laws require agencies like the Forest Service to coordinate their actions and plans with state and local governments.

The case brought by the counties alleges agency officials made little effort to coordinate the travel plan with the counties, who favor more motorized access when possible.

“We didn't really see any attempt to do that,” Ebert said. “They just sort of disregarded us.”

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Information from: Lewiston Tribune, http://www.lmtribune.com


  

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press


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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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