Conservation Groups Sue Trump Administration to Halt Massive Logging in Steelhead Critical Habitat

Counter Punch

Friends of the Clearwater and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies filed a lawsuit this week against the Trump administration’s U.S. Forest Service and National Marine Fisheries Service for authorizing massive logging on the Clearwater National Forest in Idaho. The groups contend the logging violates the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the National Forest Management Act.

The Forest Service intends to build nearly 14 miles of new roads in the Lolo Creek watershed and log nearly 3,400 acres, including 2,644 acres of clearcuts or near clearcuts. The proposed project area is approximately 16 air miles northeast from Kamiah, Idaho.  All four of the sub-watersheds affected by the project—Upper Lolo Creek, Mussellshell Creek, Eldorado Creek, and Middle Lolo Creek – are Federally-designated “critical habitat” under the Endangered Species Act for Snake River Basin steelhead.

It’s been 23 years since the Snake River Basin steelhead were listed as ‘threatened’ under the Endangered Species Act.  Yet their numbers have continued to decline due to hydroelectric dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers and widespread habitat degradation caused by clearcutting and bulldozing new logging roads throughout the Snake River Basin. The National Marine Fisheries Service used high steelhead returns from 2014-2015 for the Lolo Project’s biological opinion despite issuing the document in 2019, a year when returning steelhead numbers were at a 25-year low.

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