Comments needed on Nez Perce-Clearwater forest planning process

Now is your chance to help shape the future of river management in northern Idaho. The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest is rewriting its forest plan, and your input will help sharpen the forests’ focus on smart, proactive river management and can prevent the Forest Service from adopting a weaker management blueprint for the future.

At nearly 4 million acres, the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest constitutes the northern half of the Big Wild, the largest intact ecosystem in the continental United States. This area has tremendous biological diversity and a wealth of free-flowing rivers. As we’ve seen on the Lochsa and Clearwater rivers where Wild and Scenic river values are threatened by road-closing megaloads, these rivers face a variety of threats.

Forest plans set the course for future management and are broad in scope. While they do not make site-specific decisions, they provide guidelines for subsequent projects to follow. Forest plans are supposed to be updated every 10 to 15 years, but existing forest plans for the Clearwater and Nez Perce national forests were completed in 1987.

In many regards, however, the existing and outdated forest plans better protect fish habitat and water quality than the forests have proposed in a “Proposed Action” released for public review in July 2014. The Proposed Action ignores threats to the Clearwater and Lochsa Wild and Scenic corridor, omits important candidate streams for the Wild and Scenic Rivers System and appears to fail to establish adequate watershed protections.

This is the first stage of public involvement in the forest planning process. A second stage will occur when the Forest Service releases a draft environmental impact statement, expected sometime in 2015.

Comments, due by Nov. 14, can be sent via email to fpr_npclw@fs.fed.us or via fax to (208) 935-4275. Send written comments to:

Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests Supervisor’s Office
Attn: Forest Plan Revision
903 3rd St.
Kamiah ID 83536

Click here to read IRU's comments. Also, here are some suggested points you can make when commenting on the forests’ Proposed Action:

Draft a River Management Plan for the Selway, Lochsa and Clearwater rivers that updates the existing, dated management documents and includes as an integral part a study of and guidelines for megaloads proposed for transport through the Wild and Scenic river corridor via U.S. Highway 12.

Enhance watershed protections for fish and other aquatic species. This means adopting concrete measures to gauge cobble embededness (an important measure of sediment loads), preventing logging from existing Wild and Scenic river corridors and encouraging expanded wilderness areas and new wilderness areas that are an integral part of watershed protection.

Retain "Additional Potential Eligible Rivers" cited in the 1987 forest plans as possible additions to the Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Not only should these important rivers be kept in a new forest plan, but they should be added to the list of eligible Wild and Scenic rivers.