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Leave Crooked River alone: USFS proposal would destroy mining history

By Idaho County Commission

As unbelievable as this may sound, your U.S. Forest Service, in partnership with the Nez Perce Tribe, is going to straighten Crooked River. That’s right. Straighten it. We’re $17 trillion in debt but have millions of dollars to straighten rivers. Historical rivers. Natural rivers.

The USFS environmental impact statement on the proposed project says this about Crooked River: “These tailings are perhaps the best example of bucket-line dredge mining technology found in central Idaho and therefore are an important historical resource.” And, “These historical features are important to not only understanding a given mining technology and its associated engineering, but also reflect and convey business histories, commerce and trade, and regional/local economics.”

Yet the Forest Service is going to destroy all that mining history. That production history. If they get their way, they “would immediately and irretrievably remove virtually the entirety of the historic property (SHC-32) from the landscape, which is the best example of bucket-line dredge mining technology found in central Idaho.”

Have we lost our minds?

The USFS says we need to rip out Crooked River and straighten it “to improve fish habitat and water quality in Crooked River.” What? The mining in Crooked River ended 80 years ago. Crooked River is settled environment. The water is crystal clear and is teaming with big Westslope Cutthroat Trout. The bushes and trees on the banks of the river are 80 years old, and are natural. (Apparently not natural enough for the USFS and tribe, though, as the proposed project includes the importation of tons of more natural dirt from elsewhere and hundreds of more natural plants and trees and bushes from elsewhere.)

We have lost our minds.

Crooked River is a nationally recognized historic mining site. It is the best Westslope Cutthroat Trout (an at-risk species) fishery in the South Fork drainage. It is excellent forage for moose. It is accessible, beautiful and natural. It is settled environment.

We think the Forest Service and the tribe should leave Crooked River alone. Help us stop the madness. Send written comments to: CRVR Project, Rick Brazell, Forest Supervisor, 104 Airport Road, Grangeville, ID 83530 or electronic comments to: comments-northern-nezperce-red-river@fs.fed.us or call Jennie Fischer, USFS NEPA Team Leader at 983-4048.

The USFS will take comments until May 12.

By Idaho County Commissioner James Rockwell,and commissioners Skip Brandt and Jim Chmelik.

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