Priest Lake timber plans withdrawn

TUESDAY, DEC. 7, 2010

The Idaho Panhandle National Forest has rescinded plans for harvesting timber on thousands of acres near Priest Lake pending additional environmental review.

In a news release Monday, the Montana-based Alliance for the Wild Rockies said that decision resulted from a lawsuit the organization filed in October.

However, Jay Kirchner, a Forest Service spokesman, said that’s “factually inaccurate.” Kirchner said after the Forest Service made the decision to do the project, “another court case came along and changed how we have to evaluate it.”

The acreage is located near Nordman, Idaho, on the west side of Priest Lake. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies’ lawsuit said the project is within three watersheds listed as impaired waters by the state. It also said the project would destroy or damage habitat for lynx, fishers, grizzly bears and goshawks.

Kirchner, however, said the Forest Service will reissue the plan following a re-evaluation of the impact on certain “management indicator species,” whose health helps determine the overall forest health, as required by law. Kirchner said the project is needed to reduce fire risk because of the “unnatural density of forest” there.

The Lakeview-Reeder Project Hazardous Fuels Reduction project authorized timber harvest on 2,319 acres, 1,179 acres of prescribed burning, 3.1 miles of road construction, 19.5 miles of road maintenance and 1.9 miles of road reconstruction in a 29,380-acre project area, Forest Supervisor Ranotta McNair said in a letter Friday withdrawing the decision.

“Any new decision will be subject to all applicable administrative process, including public involvement, as well as judicial review,” the letter says.

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