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Wapiti Timber Sale touted as driving public lands activities

— Three air miles northeast of the Musselshell Work Center, there is a patch of 216 acres of federal land where the State of Idaho just sold a timber sale. Gov. Butch Otter touted the Wapiti Timber Sale earlier this month, noting it sold for $1.4 million – more than $600,000 more than had been anticipated before the Sept. 27 auction – and that it sold under the Good Neighbor Authority written into the 2014 Farm Bill.

“Good Neighbor Authority makes it possible for the State of Idaho to leverage our support and land management expertise with the Forest Service to augment management activities happening on federal lands in Idaho,” Otter said in his Sept. 27 news release.

The Good Neighbor Authority gives the Forest Service authority to partner with states on timber projects.

“We recognize the need and benefits of resource and vegetation management on all lands,” Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Supervisor Cheryl Probert said, according to Otter’s Sept. 27 news release. “A long list of restoration projects has been identified to be completed as a result of the revenue generated from the sale, and benefits will be realized far beyond this initial effort.”

McFarland Cascade won the project, which was advertised as a harvest of 4.44 million board feet during the next three years from the national forests’ Lochsa/Powell Ranger District.

“The Idaho Department of Lands forestry professionals are well-equipped to support efforts to increase management on federal forests in Idaho because of their extensive knowledge of timber sale preparation and administration and their familiarity with the federal lands in need of treatment,” IDL Director Tom Schultz said in the same Sept. 27 news release. “Hats off to the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests for working with Idaho to put up the first Good Neighbor Authority timber sale in the state.”

Meanwhile, two prominent Forest Service projects that would involve significant timber harvest have been in the works far longer, and have been blocked by lawsuits.

The Nez Perce Tribe sued over the Clear Creek Integrated Restoration in August and, after Probert withdrew her decision in order to correct it, the Tribe withdrew its lawsuit last month. According to the Sept. 17 Lewiston Tribune, the Forest Service is aiming to publish a draft in November with a decision to follow next June – whereas the Tribe told the court the process may need three years to reach a new decision.

Separately, a federal judge had earlier this year ruled against Forest Service plans for salvage logging near Johnson Bar. That area, governed under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, burned in 2014. According to the Associated Press, the Forest Service has given notice that it will pursue the timber salvage and will correct an earlier analysis in light of the injunction US Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale ordered in May.


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