On Friday, January 27, the Nez Perce Tribe, U.S. Forest Service, and Idaho Rivers United, with the help of Advocates for the West attorneys, reached a settlement in mediation resolving megaload traffic on U.S. Highway 12, as ordered by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals [1-3]. Resulting from three years of studies and discussions, to which the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) was invited but refused to participate, the agreement prohibits some megaloads from traveling through the wild and scenic Middle Fork Clearwater and Lochsa river corridor, between highway mileposts 74 and 174, from around Kooskia to the Montana border. Grateful for all of the citizens and tribal members who worked tirelessly for years to achieve this triumph, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) acknowledges and applauds our colleagues (including Fighting Goliath, Friends of the Clearwater, and others) who have slowed, if not stopped, a rapid, violent process of conceiving, building, and transporting massive loads of fossil fuel infrastructure that privilege oil company profits over local people and wild places.
Thanks to everyone for the good news and congratulations on this megaload court case resolution, and for credit for peaceful and well-voiced megaload protests throughout the region. But defense of treaty and public lands and rivers via lawsuits creates sacrifice zones, like the Dakota Access pipeline path diverted from Bismarck to Standing Rock to other watersheds in North Dakota. WIRT activists hope but do not trust that this current mediation success will not again endanger and dismiss diverse communities along alternative, regional, megaload routes beyond the Nez Perce reservation and national forest and the Clearwater-Lochsa wild and scenic river corridor. We will continue to support and assist megaload resistance and uprisings along other region-wide highways supplying interior shale oil and gas and tar sands extraction operations from Columbia River basin and Pacific ports.
On and beyond Highway 12, WIRT and grassroots and indigenous allies (Act on Climate, All Against the Haul, Blues Skies Campaign, Idaho Mythweaver, Indian Peoples Action, Coeur d’Alene, Nez Perce, Shoshone-Bannock, Umatilla, and Warm Springs tribes, Fighting Goliath, Friends of the Clearwater, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Idaho Rivers United, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Northern Rockies Earth First!, Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition, and 350, Occupy, and Rising Tide groups in Bellingham, Boise, Missoula, Moscow, Portland, Seattle, and Spokane, among many others) accomplished intensive, loosely coordinated, megaload protests and campaigns on the ground and in the courts from 2010 to 2014. We necessarily devised creative tactics that effectively, but not as apparently, overcame not only the industry and government adversaries shared with litigating allies, but also the public neglect and dismissal of our efforts engendered by more obvious and publicized lawsuit wins. WIRT minimally celebrates court case gains that deflect the enemy and/or problem to groups with lesser capacities to resist, at least through the conservative state administrative system, due to our concerns over environmental justice, mainstream conservation organization protocol, and the increased possibility under the Trump administration of looming megaload onslaughts on every regional river, road, and rail line, including Highway 12.
By now, we all know these predictable outcomes: If Highway 12 megaload opponents win, communities along alternative, industrial corridors across the rest of the region lose, as they fall directly into the crosshairs of Big Oil’s megaload traffic. Under the Trump-Tillerson dirty energy tyranny, ALL Northwest and Northern Rockies routes could overflow with both fossil fuel infrastructure and its resistance. WIRT will NOT fiddle a victory tune on Highway 12, while the planet (and even the Big Wild forests around U.S. 12) burn. But the new presidency may inadvertently force us all to finally act as mutually supportive, ecologically sustainable communities, who esteem both wildlands and their sacrifice zones as sacred. We wonder if such a shift is possible though, among the colonized, Western civilizations that mainstream conservation and climate groups wish to maintain, while the triple threats of capitalism, fascism, and climate change increasingly impose the brutal karma of ridiculous American hubris. Continue reading