Voices Needed to Protect Mallard-Larkins, Grandmother Mountain and St. Joe River Watershed
The great folks at Friends of the Clearwater gave a great presentation last week at the Iron Horse. As promised, here are some of their suggestions for comments on the draft plan for the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. Our local forest abuts the great forests of the wild Clearwater along the St. Joe divide.
The plan for the diverse 2.5 million-acre Idaho Panhandle National Forest (IPNF) is being drastically revised. Rather than adopt a sound policy for the future, the Forest Service has proposed a plan that fails the public, wildlands, wildlife, water quality and future generations. The biggest problem with the proposed plan is a lack of accountability. This alert focuses on the wild Clearwater portion of the Panhandle National Forests (The Little North Fork and upper St. Joe). Four specific problems are evident:
-Unlike the current plan, the standards to protect water quality are very limited. The monitoring requirements are different from the past too, making it difficult to determine trends. And unlike the past plan, water quality monitoring is very subjective.
-The plan is nowhere near being balanced as it allows for logging, motor vehicles, and other development on the vast majority of the national forest.
With respect to recommended Wilderness and Roadless (Undeveloped) Areas, IPNF officials recommend even less wilderness than in the current plan in the Clearwater/St. Joe country.
- Mallard-Larkins. Unlike the current plan, none of the famous high lakes of the Mallard-Larkins Pioneer Area or the Little North Fork Clearwater is recommended for wilderness! The entire area, including the Snow Peak/Canyon Creek, Foehl Creek, and all of the wild Little North Fork should be recommended as Wilderness. The roadless portions of Bad Bear and Spotted Lewis Creeks should be added. This area is home to one of Idaho’s largest herds of mountain goats.
- Upper North Fork. None of the critical headwaters for the St. Joe and North Fork Clearwater Rivers are recommended for protection in the preferred alternative. Only alternative C recommends this area as wilderness.
- Sheep Mountain, Midget Peak and Mosquito-Fly. None of these areas are recommended for wilderness yet all are important watersheds that contribute to the St. Joe River. Only alternative C recommends these areas as wilderness.
-Grandmother Mountain. Only a small portion of this area is closed to logging. None of it is closed to motorized vehicles. The entire roadless area should be recommended as Wilderness. Ancient mountain hemlock stands and wolves call this area home. No alternative recommends this area as wilderness.
-Pinchot Butte. This roadless area contains rare bogs with unique plant species in places like Pinchot Marsh. No alternative recommends this area as wilderness.
-Backcountry Management Area 5. The proposed plan has a management category called backcountry. This is misleading, as all backcountry areas are open to logging and motor vehicles. This is similar to the so-called backcountry areas in the non-protective Idaho Roadless Rule. The Forest Service should close Management Area 5 to vehicles, logging and mining. Furthermore, all roadless areas should be included in a protective management category.
-Wilderness management. Even the paltry wilderness recommendations don’t have adequate provisions that properly protect wilderness character before or after designation.
What To Do
Write the Forest Service by May 7 and provide input on the Forest Plan. View the plan here.Idaho Panhandle National Forests Forest Plan Revision 3815 Schreiber Way Coeur d’Alene, ID 83815
Or email your comments to IPNFplanrevision@fs.fed.us.
-The draft forest plan must be drastically changed to have better enforceable and accountable standards, monitoring protocol, and better allocation decisions.
-The wilderness recommendations must be expanded to include all of the Mallard Larkins, Grandmother Mountain, Upper North Fork (Vanderbilt Hill), Pinchot Butte, Sheep Mountain, Midget Peak and Mosquito Fly.
-All roadless areas including management area 5 (backcountry areas) must be closed to logging, vehicles and other development.
-The desired future condition by the agency should not be an endpoint, but instead a process, where natural forces define the character of Wilderness and other undeveloped areas.