Federal court upholds Selway Wild and Scenic values

A federal judge this week upheld Wild and Scenic River values when he declared that the U.S. Forest Service ignored the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by approving access to a state logging sale in the Selway River canyon.

“The state was proposing to operate a thousand logging truck trips over the road, and the (Forest Service) District Ranger had a duty under the Act to consider whether this use was consistent with the wild and scenic values set forth in the Act,” wrote U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill in his March 28 ruling. “His failure to do so constituted a failure ‘to consider an important aspect of the problem’ rendering the decision arbitrary and capricious.”

IRU and local property owners Morgan and Olga Wright filed suit in federal court last May to challenge the Forest Service’s determination that a road accessing state land along the Selway was a “public road,” as well as with failing to conduct any analysis on the adverse impacts that a proposed new road and logging traffic would have on the Selway Wild and Scenic River corridor.

“The Selway is a national treasure, and the Forest Service has to protect its Wild and Scenic values,” said IRU Conservation Director Kevin Lewis. “Idahoans and citizens from across the nation travel to this region to enjoy the wide-range of benefits provided by the Selway and nearby Lochsa Rivers.” 

IRU was represented in the case by Advocates for the West Executive Director Laird Lucas.

“This is an important court precedent because it confirms that the Forest Service has to take into account Wild and Scenic Rivers when it is approving land management decisions affecting a protected river corridor, like the amazing Selway River,” Lucas said.  “This decision should help ensure that the Forest Service adheres to its Wild and Scenic River Act obligations in other decisions affecting the Selway, as well as the Lochsa and Middle Fork Clearwater rivers in the region.” 

Earlier this month, IRU filed a separate lawsuit challenging the Forest Service’s approval of the Johnson Bar Fire Salvage Project, another sale that’s within the Selway and Middle Fork of the Clearwater Wild and Scenic corridors.  That suit claims that the Forest Service is violating the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by failing to adopt a comprehensive river management plan, which was required by Congress over three decades ago. 

“Wild and Scenic rivers are our nation’s most precious, prized and celebrated rivers, and they deserve our utmost care and consideration – not ongoing degradation as a result of poor management decisions,” Lewis said.