Protesters in animal masks stand outside Moscow’s Best Western Hotel on Jan. 25 holding signs reading “Clearwater NF don’t make us homeless.” Another protestor holds a sign reading “Logging is not restoration.” The protest was against two plans created by the U.S. Forest Service which would remove 150 feet from a 300-foot buffer protecting forest streams.

Save the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests

Forest Service’s Draft Revised forest plan lacks “measurable, quantitative standards”

January 28, 2020

The future of the Nez Perce Forest and the Clearwater National Forest is threatened by two documents released by the U.S. Forest Service in December.

Brett Haverstick, Friends of the Clearwater education and outreach director, said the forests currently operate under two separate plans. He said it is not a good idea to combine both plans into one plan which is the Forest Service’s goal with the Draft Revised Forest Plan

He said the current plans reflect the diversity of both forests, but the draft plan does not.

Cheryl Probert, forest supervisor of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, said the two forests were administratively combined in 2013. 

She said a single plan was developed to reflect this change “to have a more consistent management approach.” She said the draft plan accounts for the forests’ differences.

Gary Macfarlane, FOC ecosystem defense director, said the draft plan lacks “measurable, quantitative standards.” This means the Forest Service will struggle proving to the public that they are meeting the required standards. 

“At the end of the day, you want data-driven science collected, and you want to see those numbers,” Macfarlane said. “If you don’t have that, then it becomes a big, gray area.”

Macfarlane said the draft plan does not protect wilderness areas which are important habitats for species such as grizzly bears and wolverines. The plan also increases logging and endangers the 1.5 million acres of Clearwater’s undeveloped wildlands.

“The [Forest Service] has indicated that any roadless areas not recommended as wilderness in the new forest plan could be developed (logged),” according to the FOC website.

Logging is the process of cutting down trees and removing its wood outside a forest. 

Macfarlane said there are streams in the forests which host aquatic species such as native steelhead, native bull trout and salmon. These species require clean water. The streams are protected by a 300-foot buffer which prohibits logging development. However, the buffer is decreased by 150 feet in the draft plan, he said.

He said this poses a problem because native steelhead are currently headed toward extinction in the Columbia River Basin, specifically in the Snake River.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, steelhead trout is classified as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. 

The FOC held a public meeting Jan. 16 at the 1912 Center in Moscow, Idaho to discuss the content of draft plan. Attendees were encouraged to engage in the public comment process.

During the meeting, Moscow resident and environmental activist Linwood Laughy said standards are often the basis upon which litigation happens. With a lack of standards, there is a lack of accountability, he said.

Another attendee of the meeting, Moscow resident Nils Peterson, said standards are like the white pluses on streets that help people parallel park. 

“Having a public standard like that — the white plus — allows people to really assess what they did and assess each other,” Peterson said.

Haverstick said the Forest Service did not include the FOC’s Conservation Biology Citizen Alternative in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement

The FOC’s alternative was submitted in 2014 and was supported by 13 environmental and conservation groups. The FOC’s alternative generated over 10,000 comments of support, he said.

Macfarlane said the FOC’s alternative protects 100 percent of roadless areas in the forests. The alternative prohibits the use of motorized vehicles such as snowmobiles. The alternative also prevents logging in roadless areas.

He said the FOC’s alternative also reduces carbon emissions and promotes carbon sequestration which is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide.

“You can log until the cows come home because there’s no side boards there that the agency has to follow,” Haverstick said. “Do away with the standards, and break out the chainsaws. That’s really what the plan is about.”

Individuals can submit their comments concerning the draft plan on the Forest Service’s website

Zach Peterson, forest planner of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, said comments will be used to develop the Final Environmental Impact Statement as well as the proposed revised plan. He said the Forest Service will release these documents in March 2021.

This article is part three of a three-part series on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests and the U.S. Forest Service. 

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