IRU wins protection for Wild and Scenic Selway

After months of legal wrangling with Wild and Scenic river advocates, the U.S. Forest Service has withdrawn its decision to clear-cut more than 2,000 acres of forest in the Wild and Scenic Selway River canyon.

IRU and our partners at Friends of the Clearwater, with representation by the public interest law firm Advocates for the West, won a May 12 injunction that blocked the logging project just days before it was scheduled to commence. IRU then received a July 19 letter from the Forest Service stating it had withdrawn the official decision approving the project. IRU dropped the lawsuit the next day, July 20.

“Our wins can seem few and far between, but today we get to celebrate a pretty incredible victory for one of America’s most special wild places,” said IRU Executive Director Kevin Lewis. “The Selway River is one of America’s first and best Wild and Scenic Rivers, and it’s time the Forest Service started treating it that way.”

In granting the injunction on May 2, federal magistrate Judge Candy Dale said it was clear that irreparable harm was a likely outcome of the logging project. 

“If timber harvesting begins with construction and reconstruction of roads and helicopter landings, coupled with the actual harvesting, it may take years to restore the precious Wild and Scenic values—the scenic and esthetic values which are the essence of the Rivers’ inclusion in the Wild and Scenic System,” Dale wrote.

Forest Supervisor Cheryl Probert said in her letter that any further consideration by the Forest Service would adhere to the guidelines set forth by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

“The Forest Service will not proceed with the activities proposed by the Johnson Bar Fire Salvage Project until we undertake further analysis in accordance with all applicable laws and make a new decision,” Probert wrote. “Any future action regarding the project will be consistent with the Forest Service’s commitment to ensure the protection of the Outstanding Remarkable Values identified for the Wild and Scenic River.”