IRU returns to federal court to defend the Wild and Scenic Selway

Idaho Rivers United filed in federal court today to defend the beloved Wild and Scenic rivers of the Clearwater River basin in North Idaho.

The suit challenges the U.S. Forest Service’s approval of the Johnson Bar Fire Salvage Project, which would facilitate logging of 34 million board feet of timber from 2,104 acres within the watershed of the Selway and Middle Fork Clearwater rivers. 

The project includes massive clear-cutting, extensive roadwork covering just over 108 miles and at least 13 helicopter landing pads within the Wild and Scenic corridor.

IRU, along with co-plaintiff Friends of the Clearwater, is represented by Advocates for the West.

The groups claim in the suit that the Forest Service’s approval of the project violates the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which requires the agency to adopt a comprehensive river management plan some three decades ago. Moreover, the project violates additional requirements that commercial logging is not allowed within the Wild and Scenic corridor.

“The Selway and Middle Fork Clearwater are some of the very finest river jewels in our nation, and Congress recognized that when it protected them under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act back in 1968,” said IRU Conservation Director Kevin Lewis. “Rather than follow its legal duty to protect the Wild and Scenic River corridor, the Forest Service is allowing significant degradation to occur without disclosing the true scope of the impacts to the public.”

The suit also asserts that the project approval violates the National Forest Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act by “failing to comply with Forest Plan standards, ignoring well-established science that contradicts their pre-determined outcome … and failing to adequately consider the cumulative impacts of the project.”

“The steelhead trout in the Selway River Basin are significant in that they are truly wild and unaffected by hatchery production,” said Friends of the Clearwater Executive Director Gary Macfarlane. “This timber sale violates the requirements to protect the Selway’s crucial streelhead habitat.”