Federal judge to decide megaloads case

Federal District Judge B. Lynn Winmill today heard final arguments in IRU’s case against the U.S. Forest Service and Federal Highway Administration. The case seeks to establish that the federal agencies have the authority to manage for Wild & Scenic river values on U.S. Highway 12 in the Clearwater and Lochsa river corridor.

Filed in U.S. District Court in Boise on March 10, 2011, the lawsuit is the only federal action to challenge the transport of megaloads up Highway 12 and through the Wild and Scenic river corridor. 

“The Forest Service indicated its concern about the impacts of megaloads to Wild and Scenic values of the river corridor, but decided it didn’t have the authority to act,” said IRU Conservation Director Kevin Lewis. “This case seeks to establish that authority.”

The Middle Fork of the Clearwater and its tributary, the Lochsa, were among the first rivers protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968. Idaho Sen. Frank Church championed the act, which also included among its first designations the Selway and Middle Fork of the Salmon rivers.

“These rivers represent the embodiment of what the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was meant to protect,” Lewis said. “These rivers anchor cathedral-like forests that inspire awe, reflection and reverence. They are recreational Edens for fishermen, campers, hikers, hunters, bicyclists, history buffs, whitewater kayakers and rafters.

“We have a responsibility to protect the Clearwater and Lochsa—the way we see them now and enjoy them now—for our children and for their children. The Forest Service shares that responsibility and should have led the charge for protection.”