BOISE – National security concerns require the repairing of a northern Idaho road in important grizzly bear habitat near the Canadian border and lifting travel restrictions on law enforcement, officials say.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Bog Creek Road would be used by officials but not the public for east-west access in the Selkirk Mountains.
The agency and the U.S. Forest Service on Friday released a draft environmental impact statement for about 6 miles of the road that calls for repairing eroded areas and removing boulders.
Work would also include installing six new culverts and replacing six of the 67 corrugated metal pipe culverts along the roadway. Officials say a culvert failure at one point caused a washout and has made the road impassable. Trees and brush would also be cut back along the road that’s in Boundary County and about 2 miles from the Canadian border.
Officials said repairing the road will allow Border Protection agents “to prevent illegal activities before perpetrators can reach areas where they can blend in with legitimate activities to elude apprehension.”
The plan also closes about 26 miles of Forest Service roads to motor vehicles in the area that’s in the Selkirk Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone. Closing the roads will allow the Forest Service to meet requirements that at least 55 percent of the Blue-Grass Bear Management Unit be core habitat for grizzlies.
Mike Garrity, executive director of Alliance for the Wild Rockies, said his group is against repairing Bog Creek Road.
“Most grizzly bears are killed near roads, and the federal government has a bad track record of closing roads,” he said.
Also in the plan, the 7.4-mile Blue Joe Creek Road that starts at the end of Bog Creek Road would change designation and allow motorized trips as needed rather than be limited to 57 vehicle round trips.
The 2,200-square-mile Selkirk Mountain Ecosystem includes portions of Idaho, Washington state and British Columbia. Estimates put the grizzly bear population at about 80 bears that are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Along with grizzly bears, other federally protected species in the area include caribou, Canada lynx and bull trout.
Public meetings on the plan are scheduled for June 19 in Priest Lake, June 20 in Sandpoint, and June 21 in Bonners Ferry. Public comments on the plan are being taken through July 16.