Court rules in favor of suspending the Hanna Flats timber sale, Priest Lake Idaho

On July 23 the US District Court found for the plaintiff, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, suspending the Hanna Flats timber sale near the Priest Lake Ranger Station.  This is precedent setting document, since it will require exacting language and conditions for establishing a Wildland Urban Interface (WUI).  The designation of WUI is one of the categorical exemptions that enables the USFS to award timber sales without an environmental assessment. The importance of this ruling relates to the impact it may have on logging in the entire Idaho Panhandle National Forest.  In 2017 Bonner County commissioners declared that essentially the entire county is a WUI.  This would have meant that any timber sale on federal lands going forward could proceed without an environmental assessment as prescribed by NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act).

There are specific environmental concerns related to the Hanna Flats project including large tracts of clear cuts or modified clear cuts and proximity to a grizzly bear recovery zone;  however, it is the larger issue of the USFS sidestepping the letter and intent of the law that has led to this conclusion.  We are hopeful the forest service will take measures to comply with this ruling.  It is quite possible that the Hanna Flat project will proceed quickly if the forest service can demonstrate that the project fulfills the criteria set forth in the Federal Register; however, Judge Winmill has set a high bar.  If it does not, a formal environmental assessment will be required.

In the last 25 years forestry research at the University of British Columbia and Oregon State has demonstrated methods of sustainable logging that are less disruptive to the forest ecosystem.  More to come on this issue in the fall newsletter!!!

– SCA Staff and Board of Directors

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