BOISE — A battle has been won to protect Idaho’s Wild & Scenic Lochsa and Clearwater rivers, but the war is far from over.
Imperial Oil, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, has applied for permits transport megaloads on routes other than U.S. Highway 12, which parallels the Wild & Scenic Lochsa and Clearwater rivers.
“This is a win for our Wild & Scenic rivers, but the threat isn’t gone,” said Kevin Lewis, IRU Conservation Program Director.
Lewis pointed out that Imperial/Exxon continues to pursue permits to transport megaloads on Highway 12, and other companies have expressed interest in using the Wild & Scenic corridor to move similar super-sized loads.
Further, Lewis said, Imperial/Exxon has irreparably harmed the corridor’s wild and scenic qualities by trimming trees adjacent to the highway.
“This scalping of trees to facilitate megaload transport creates a visual blight that has permanently altered the corridor’s visual aesthetics,” he said. “The Forest Service and the Federal Highway Administration have abdicated their responsibility to protect the Wild & Scenic corridor.”
Earlier this year IRU filed a federal lawsuit charging the U.S. Forest Service and Federal Highway Administration with failure to protect the Wild & Scenic values of the Middle Fork of the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers.
These two rivers are among the original rivers designated by the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act in 1968. With these designations, Congress mandated that all federal agencies protect and enhance the outstanding values that led to their designation.
“While we’re celebrating Imperial’s immediate change of plans, the long-term threat remains,” Lewis said. “Imperial Oil continues to pursue Highway 12 as a transportation corridor for megaloads. This isn’t rocket science. Until the federal agencies fulfill their obligations to protect these national treasures, IRU will continue to vigorously pursue its litigation.
“America’s first Wild & Scenic rivers deserve no less.”