LEWISTON – A logging and restoration project above tributaries to the South Fork of the Clearwater River won’t significantly reduce the number of old growth stands in the area.
Planners with the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest recently updated the environmental documentation for the Hungry Ridge project 17 miles southeast of Grangeville, Idaho. The added information was necessary after the project was blocked last summer by U.S. District Judge Candy Dale at Boise.
Responding to a lawsuit filed by the Moscow-based Friends of the Clearwater, Dale said while planning the project, the Forest Service failed to meet its own forest plan standards for measuring old growth stands within the project area.
According to a supplemental draft environmental impact statement published Friday, all the watersheds within the project area exceed the 5% forest plan standard for old growth and the entire Nez Perce Forest exceeds the 10% old growth requirement.
“The analysis shows there would be no significant impact from proposed treatments to old growth amounts and characteristics,” said silviculturist Casey Seaman in a news release. “Actions would enhance old growth health and resilience into the future.”
That doesn’t mean old growth trees won’t be logged. In some areas where root disease is a problem, the agency will use a regeneration harvest method where most trees are logged including some mature trees. In other places, younger grand fir and Douglas fir trees growing beneath older trees would be logged. Doing so would help protect old growth trees from wildfires, according to the document.
The project, which also includes prescribed burning, is designed to reduce fuel loading in areas deemed to be at risk for high-intensity wildfires and to improve overall forest health and resiliency.
Before it was blocked, the project was forecast to produce 177 million board feet of timber from about 8,000 acres. It is within a 1.8 million-acre area declared to be an at-risk fireshed and for which the forest is receiving additional funding under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act.