New agreement protects Selway Wild and Scenic

The real winner here is the Selway River.
— Kevin Lewis, IRU Executive Director

The Selway River and several sensitive tributary streams were protected today when conservation groups completed negotiations with the U.S. Forest Service and settled on a revised plan for logging portions of the canyon burned in 2014.

“The real winner here is the Selway River, one of the original eight rivers protected in 1968 with passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act,” said IRU Executive Director Kevin Lewis. “IRU got involved because the original Forest Service proposal to allow logging at Johnson Bar threatened the Selway wild and scenic river corridor. The agreement resolves our concerns on both counts.”

Under the agreement, signed June 23 by IRU, Friends of the Clearwater and U.S. Forest Service, logging will occur on slopes not within or visible from the Selway River wild and scenic corridor, and outside buffers established to protect water quality in tributary streams.

The settlement caps more than a year of legal wrangling. On May 12, 2016, Federal District Judge Candy Dale issued a preliminary injunction blocking clear cuts and road construction planned by the Forest Service. The federal agency then withdrew its proposal and drafted a new one. Parties used the revised proposal as a starting point, and through resulting conversations and site visits amended and eventually signed off on the plan.

“It’s unfortunate that a logging company was caught in the middle of a dispute centering on an original Forest Service decision that didn’t protect rivers,” Lewis said. “IRU recognizes environmentally-aware logging practices as a valid use of our public lands, but sensitive areas like wild and scenic rivers, wilderness areas, riparian areas and stream banks need special consideration.”

Lewis also applauded the ultimate spirit of cooperation that helped resolve the dispute.

“This settlement is an example of what happens when parties set their differences aside, talk and work to find common ground,” he said.