- Associated Press - Friday, June 30, 2017

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) - The supervisor of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest approved a redesigned logging plan for a timber sale that will see fewer trees cut and more assurances that scenic views and water quality are protected.

The Johnson Bar Salvage Sale was first approved last year, but it was halted by a federal judge who granted a temporary injunction requested by the Friends of the Clearwater and Idaho Rivers United.

The two environmental groups sued the U.S. Forest Service, saying the sale would harm water quality and steelhead habitat. They said the sale also would mar views along the Selway River, which was among the first rivers designated by Congress to be part of the nation’s Wild and Scenic River System, the Lewiston Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/2sZQOBn ) Thursday.

Following the injunction, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Supervisor Cheryl Probert pulled the project and committed to a rewrite that was completed earlier this year. The environmental groups filed objections to the new logging plan, but those objections were resolved through negotiations between the agency, the environmental groups and timber companies.

“Nobody got 100 percent of what they wanted in this effort. But they have been really good about working through the process and understanding it’s in all of our best interests to get something done out there,” Probert said.

The project will remove dead timber from about 1.52 sq. miles (3.94 sq. kilometers) of the 13,000 burned in a 2014 wildfire. That is down from the 4.53 sq. miles (11.73 sq. kilometers) that were originally designated for salvage.

Bill Higgins of the Idaho Forest Group - one of the timber companies that successfully bid on the sale - estimated it will produce 25 percent to 40 percent of the original volume

“It’s not the best outcome,” he said. “The original project implementation on the schedule they were on was the desired outcome. This is making the best of kind of a bad situation.”

The project eliminates logging in areas that are visible from the river and places the groups feared were prone to erosion and landslides or areas that could degrade steelhead spawning habitat.

“We are glad to see the Forest Service won’t log in certain sensitive areas; places that should have never been proposed for road building and logging in the first place,” said Gary Macfarlane, ecosystem defense director of Friends of the Clearwater at Moscow. “Development of post-fire landscapes is detrimental to forest restoration, including within and near the wild and scenic corridor. Now it’s up to the agency to follow through and carry out its promises to the public.”

Probert said even with the reduced volume, the sale will help support about 200 local jobs and contribute about $6 million to the local economy. Proceeds from the sale will be used to plant trees in some of the burned area. She also said the process, though difficult, led to better understanding between all the parties involved.

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