March 14, 1998 in Nation/World

Forest Service Tries To Calm Roadless Fears Logging, Recreation Impact Minimal, Say Officials

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Timber sales on national forests in the Inland Northwest will drop only about 8 million board feet this year if the Forest Service temporarily stops building roads in roadless areas.

The Colville National Forest would drop its timber sale program from 60 million board feet to 57 million board feet. The Idaho Panhandle National Forests would reduce its timber sales from 63 million board feet to 61 million board feet.

“We don’t think the short-term impacts on the Panhandle will be catastrophic,” said Dave O’Brien, of the Panhandle Forests.

“We haven’t planned much (logging) in the areas in question.

The longer-term effects are unknown.

But because the Panhandle Forests have little roadless area and little wilderness area, it is not expected to be significant, forest officials said.

On the Colville, a maximum of 74,000 acres of roadless area would be affected.

During the next 18 months, the greatest decline in logging in Idaho will hit the Boise and Payette national forests. These two forests would offer 77 million board feet of timber rather than 137 million board feet.

Those are the worst-case scenarios if the Forest Service moves forward with a proposal to stop building roads in roadless areas until it can draft a new road building plan. But the Forest Service wants public input before it finalizes its plan this spring.

As well as an open house in Coeur d’Alene next week, the Forest Service will hold open houses in Libby, Missoula and Boise. People also can submit written comments.

The Forest Service wants to know what the public thinks of the moratorium as well as its long-term plans for building fewer roads. The long-term plan also tentatively calls for aggressively closing or ripping out unneeded roads while upgrading the most-used roads.

That doesn’t necessarily mean less access on the Panhandle, which leads area national forests in decommissioning roads.

“Ninety percent of the use is on 10 percent of the roads,” he said. “The roads we are closing on the Panhandle are in situations where there is alternative access to some areas.

“And we are not closing main-line recreation roads,” O’Brien said.

The Colville National Forest is obliterating almost no roads.

The Forest Service proposed the nationwide moratorium on road construction in roadless areas in January. It exempted national forests in Western Washington, western Oregon, Alaska and other places.

The agency has 440,000 miles of road - nearly 10 times that of the interstate highway system. It is $10 billion behind in road maintenance.

Most of the unmaintained roads are more than 50 years old, according to the Forest Service.

Western politicians and timber industry officials have been extremely critical of the plan as too tough on logging. Environmentalists characterize it as extraordinarily weak.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Projected impact of road moratorium

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:

Open House

The Forest Service will hold an open house Thursday in Coeur d’Alene from 1 to 7 p.m. on a proposal to temporarily halt road construction in roadless areas of the Colville, Idaho Panhandle, Clearwater and Nez Perce national forests. The open house will be held at the Idaho Panhandle National Forests supervisor’s office, 3815 Schreiber.

This sidebar appeared with the story: Open House The Forest Service will hold an open house Thursday in Coeur d’Alene from 1 to 7 p.m. on a proposal to temporarily halt road construction in roadless areas of the Colville, Idaho Panhandle, Clearwater and Nez Perce national forests. The open house will be held at the Idaho Panhandle National Forests supervisor’s office, 3815 Schreiber.


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