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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Logging near LC trail allowed to proceed

Associated Press

BOISE – A federal judge has refused to stop the Wendover Fire Salvage Project, a timber sale near the trail used by Lewis and Clark 200 years ago on their historic trek to the Pacific Ocean.

A coalition of environmental groups filed suit in U.S. District Court last week, contending the Forest Service’s plan failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal regulations and that the agency was cutting down healthy trees as well as those killed or damaged by fire.

But Judge Edward Lodge ruled Friday that the Forest Service adequately reviewed the project before it began cutting the trees on 117 acres in the Clearwater National Forest in northern Idaho. He cited a memo the agency released in March after public comment hearings.

“The purpose of NEPA is to require decision makers to take a ‘hard look’ at the impact of a project before action is taken,” Lodge wrote in his ruling. “In this case, the Decision Memo supports that the District Ranger did take a ‘hard look’ at the project.”

The Wendover Fire Salvage Project, 10 miles west of Powell, would log about 1.1 million board feet of timber from land burned in the 2003 Wendover Ridge Fire.

In 1805, members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition camped along the Lochsa River as they trudged west, having just crossed the Bitterroot Mountains. They used a trail near the present-day logging site to bypass difficult terrain along the river.

Mike Petersen, the executive director of the Spokane-based Lands Council, said the environmental coalition was disappointed. He called the ruling “narrow,” and said the group would appeal to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We think it failed to recognize that there are other laws that come into play, such as the Wilderness Act,” Petersen said. “The loggers are walking up the trail with their chain saws to access it and sawing down trees within sight of one of the most important historical trails in the country.”

He said he hopes the appeals court will consider the case early next week.

But Ranger Joni Packard said officials with the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office, the National Park Service and the Governor’s Lewis and Clark Trail Committee all agreed the timber sale would have no adverse impact on the trail.

“It’s really a minor, small-scale salvage project and we’ve been doing it right from the get go,” she said.

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