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Probert: J-Bar fire salvage project decision to be withdrawn

The Forest Service included this photo with its Johnson Bar Fire Salvage project decision. It portrays conditions the fire left behind in an area where the Forest Service had been developing projects to "improve the species, structural and age class diversity of forested ecosystems" even before the fire burned.

U.S. Forest Service
The Forest Service included this photo with its Johnson Bar Fire Salvage project decision. It portrays conditions the fire left behind in an area where the Forest Service had been developing projects to "improve the species, structural and age class diversity of forested ecosystems" even before the fire burned.



Earlier this month, a federal court ordered a preliminary injunction in the civil case over the Forest Service’s Johnson Bar Fire Salvage project. The order stopped salvage logging near the Selway and Middle Fork Clearwater Wild and Scenic rivers, which was set to begin as early as May 16. Now the salvage logging project is being withdrawn.

Had it gone as planned, the Johnson Bar Fire Salvage project would have reaped approximately 34 million board feet of timber from 2,104 acres of Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests in parts roughly east of Lowell, among the 13,000 acres burned by the 2014 Johnson Bar Fire.

Idaho Rivers United and Friends of the Clearwater argued that the Forest Service “violated its duties to protect the Selway and Middle Fork Clearwater rivers under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and also failed to fully evaluate cumulative environmental impacts along with other private and state land logging and 2015 fires in the same area,” the groups noted in a joint news release May 13.

In ordering the preliminary injunction, US Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale concluded the environmentalists “met their burden” on three claims. In effect, the injunction killed the project.

"We want to make sure any future action we take is consistent with the outstandingly remarkable Selway River values," Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests supervisor Cheryl Probert told the Free Press Wednesday, May 25. She explained the move to withdraw the decision she made earlier this year as a consequence of deterioration anticipated in the burned area. Probert also noted the need to work in Selway River country is rooted in "many reasons including public safety, post fire restoration, resource protection, social values such as contributing to the economies of our communities and protecting river values.”

In a court filing yesterday, the Forest Service and the environmentalist plaintiffs in the case presented a timetable under which it would take months to resolve one aspect of the dispute. The plaintiffs will argue the Forest Service has committed an "unreasonable delay regarding the comprehensive river management plan," which could take until February 2017 to resolve.



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