Nonprofit, citizens sue USDA Forest Service

Opponents say project ignores best practice, used as excuse to log

CARMEN JARAMILLO, Evergreen reporter

Two local environmental groups have filed suit against the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, alleging it violated federal law in the planned sale of a large crop of old growth timber located in the Nez Perce National Forest.

The Windy-Shingle Project would log about 2,500 acres of forest in effort to “increase resilience to insects and disease infestation [and] reduce wildfire risk to the local communities,” according to the USDA Forest Service’s website.

Friends of Rapid River and Friends of the Clearwater allege the USDA Forest Service violated its forest plan when it did not prioritize the old growth sections of forest or complete a full-scale environmental impact report, according to a release from Friends of the Clearwater. The release also stated the forest service is required by the National Forest Management Act to comply with its forest plans.

Gary Macfarlane, ecosystem defense director of Friends of the Clearwater, said the clearcutting will not help prevent wildfires or diseased insects but instead will negatively impact elk, marten, fisher and woodpecker populations.

“It’s just an excuse to log and that’s been one of the problems, is that they’re trying to scare people,” he said. “But you can’t log your way out of a fire.”

Macfarlane said Friends of the Clearwater is a watchdog organization which seeks to protect national forests and wildlife for their intrinsic values. The Moscow-based nonprofit organization has been around for almost 30 years and has successfully brought around a dozen suits against the forest service, he said.

“Public lands are owned by all Americans, the national forest is owned by all Americans,” he said. “Too often we see the forest service only being concerned about local industries rather than all Americans.”