- Associated Press - Thursday, January 5, 2017

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) - An Idaho conservation group has filed a lawsuit over the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to log and build a temporary road in an undeveloped part of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest.

Friends of the Clearwater filed a lawsuit challenging the Forest Service’s analysis that found logging and other work near Orogrande won’t degrade the area or threaten its roadless status and its future as a potential wilderness designation, The Lewiston Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/2iLWJFX ).

Orogrande is a tiny, unincorporated, historic mining community about 40 miles southwest of Elk City. It includes about 20 cabins and homes, most of which are occupied seasonally. Fire has threatened the community a number of times in recent years and the logging project is designed to reduce that threat.

“We believe (the) Orogrande Community Protection Project is the right thing to do to promote a healthy, fire-resistant forest and reduce extreme fire risk near homes and roads in an area known for frequent lightning and heavy fuel loads,” said Cheryl Probert, supervisor of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest, in a statement.

A large portion of the project, about 200 acres out of 300, lies within roadless areas and would include construction of about six miles of road. Once logging is complete, the road would be obliterated.

Friends of Clearwater Ecosystem Defense Director Gary Macfarlane said the Forest Service’s environmental analysis did not meet standards required by the National Environmental Policy Act. He also said the analysis is contrary to other roadless area logging decisions the agency has made.

The Idaho Roadless Rule allows road building and logging that is associated with reducing fire risk near communities. Macfarlane said the group’s lawsuit is not challenging the properness of the project under the roadless rule, but instead is challenging the analysis by the agency that indicates logging and the temporary road won’t have a significant impact on the roadless area.

“When you say it does on one hand and it doesn’t on the other, people begin to wonder about the integrity of the process,” he said. “It’s clear to everybody except the Forest Service that logging and road building effect and remove areas from consideration as wilderness.”

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Information from: Lewiston Tribune, https://www.lmtribune.com

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