Attacks by the timber industry and a recent loss in the courtroom are eroding support for a conservation group trying to stop logging in central Idaho.
The Boise-based Idaho Sporting Congress has lost two members and a “very significant” benefactor in the past few days, said Executive Director Ron Mitchell.
Two of five board members now “question my competence,” he added.
The schism developed after a ruling Thursday by U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge in Boise. He ordered the Idaho Sporting Congress to pay $4,541.50 in attorney fees to the Coeur d’Alene-based Intermountain Forest Industry Association and Shearer Lumber Co. in Elk City, Idaho.
The timber groups had intervened as codefendants in legal actions the sporting congress brought against the U.S. Forest Service. The environmental group claims the agency should stop logging the Nez Perce National Forest’s Cove-Mallard area until it can prove fish and wildlife are not being harmed.
One of the sportsmen’s lawsuits is pending before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Timber industry spokesman Ken Kohli said the latest ruling underscores the point that anti-logging litigation has reached frivolous degrees and “childish shenanigans.”
“This game of smoke, mirrors and legal mumbo jumbo had to stop somewhere,” Kohli said.
Mitchell defended the litigation as well planned and considerate and said the courtroom is the only way to stop a pristine corridor between three wilderness areas from being “obliterated.”
Cove-Mallard is one of the finest elk calving, rearing and hunting areas in the country, he said, and is threatened by Forest Service disregard for environmental laws.
Mitchell said industry’s character assassination, although effective, is clearly aimed at silencing the “only citizens’ organization south of the Salmon River that has slowed industry’s clearcutting scourge of public lands.”
The Cove-Mallard area is an island between the Frank Church, Selway Bitterroot and Gospel Hump wilderness areas southeast of Grangeville.
An environmental coalition that includes Earth First! activists recently began its fourth straight summer of protests at Cove-Mallard.
One activist - Walter Brown of Moscow, Idaho - was jailed Monday after locking himself to an Idaho County sheriff’s bumper.
The bumper was removed, and Brown was sent to jail still locked to the bumper, said protest leader Robert “Ramon” Amon of Missoula.
“If we can’t save the largest remaining roadless area in the lower 48, what good is the rest of it (nation)?” he asked.