Logging OK’d on 40,000 Acres in N. Idaho

BOISE, Idaho (CN) — A federal judge found nothing wrong with the U.S. Forest Service’s approval of a 40,000-acre logging project in northern Idaho, despite environmentalists’ claims that it could hurt native trout.
     The Alliance for the Wild Rockies and others sued the Forest Service in June 2015, claiming its approval of the Lost Creek-Boulder Creek Landscape Restoration Project violated the Endangered Species Act.
     The project allows more than 22,000 acres of commercial logging and 17,700 acres of noncommercial logging in the New Meadows Ranger District of the 2.3 million-acre Payette National Forest.
     Payette National Forest, in north central Idaho, extends up into the lower Panhandle.
     The project also allows temporary road construction, prescribed fire, watershed improvement and recreation improvements, all in an effort to contribute to the “economic vitality of the adjacent communities.”
     The Forest Service issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision for the project in March 2014.
     But the Alliance, joined by the Idaho Sporting Congress and Native Ecosystems Council, said the Forest Service failed to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service about the project’s impact on critical habitat for the protected bull trout. The environmentalists said the Forest Service had to reinitiate consultation for its 2003 Forest Plan because of “new information.”
     U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge agreed with the Forest Service on Aug. 31, rejecting the claim that more consultation was required because of a 2010 final rule that designated critical habitat, and a companion report of the same year.
     “The court finds that the ‘Nelson Report’ is not new information,” Lodge wrote in a 46-page order. “While the Nelson Report goes on to make ‘more specific or detailed’ suggested changes to the proposed [habitat] designations, the concerns underlying the suggestions are same as those the Forest Service made and were considered when the 2003 Forest Plan was finalized.”
     Lodge also threw out the plaintiffs’ claims made under the National Environmental Policy Act and National Forest Management Act.
     “The Forest Service has identified the science it considered, explained its reasoning, and arrived at a rational decision based on the facts found and the choice made,” Lodge wrote. He granted the government summary judgment.

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