Oppose Collaborative Deforestation around Lake Pend Oreille!

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USFS) and compromised, north Idaho Big Greens involved in the Panhandle Forest “Collaborative” have agreed to massive deforestation of steep mountains on the remote, wilder, east side of Lake Pend Oreille, promoted as “restoration” projects to reduce wildfires and insect and disease outbreaks [1, 2].  Over the next few years, the Sandpoint Ranger District of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests (IPNF) and timber companies plan to excessively build roads and log over 175,000 acres of Lake Pend Oreille slopes, which would degrade water and air quality, wildlife habitat, protected areas, and recreational opportunities.  A complex of three contiguous logging projects, the 57,000-acre Buckskin Saddle, 43,000-acre Chloride Gold, and 43,500-acre Honey Badger, extends 45 miles from the Clark Fork River on the north, throughout eastern lake forests, and south to the Hayden Lake area.  Government proposals and decisions on these unnecessary forays into carbon-sequestering forests overlap temporally, while the middle Chloride Gold project also overlaps spatially with the area of the Kaniksu Winter Recreation environmental assessment (EA).  These USFS overlaps are called “stacking National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents,” an illegal rush and overburden of public scrutiny.

Located to the south of federal agency-finalized Buckskin Saddle project destruction, currently stalled by Johnson Creek bridge replacement near the Clark Fork River delta between September 2022 and May 2023, and potential litigation by grassroots groups, the Chloride Gold (CG) project proposes to conduct “vegetation management,” “hazardous fuels reduction,” and other activities to “manage invasive plants, roads, trails, recreation, wildlife habitat, and improve fish passage under roads … [and] overall landscape resiliency to disturbances” [2-6].  Pre-scoping ideas suggested that the USFS planned to push approximately 23.8 miles of new, “temporary” road construction and over 12 square miles of forest “regeneration” cuts in the area, which would remove the vast majority of trees in over 17,000 acres (26.6 square miles), through logging, road building, and controlled burning, even in inventoried roadless areas (IRAs).  According to the December 1, 2022, Chloride Gold scoping notice signed by Sandpoint District ranger Jessie Berner, over 22,500 acres would undergo “vegetation treatments” including large clearcuts and prescribed burns.  The scoping letter requests public review and comments by Monday, January 16, 2023, for USFS consideration in drafting only an environmental assessment (EA), not the full environmental impact statement (EIS) required and necessary for the CG onslaught.

On September 27, 2022, in preparation for a public presentation and field trip refuting this logging project, provided by regional, climate activist collective Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) in spring or summer 2023, Northern Rockies wildlands and wildlife activist and GIS researcher Paul Sieracki and two WIRT board members visited the Chloride Gold logging project area [7].  With precise maps in hand while exploring CG forests, these citizen monitors found a highly impacted landscape, crossed by a spaghetti network of roads and all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and motorcycle trails, devastated by huge logged areas, and immersed in road dust and subsequent lake haze.  They documented and publicly offered their observations with photographs and descriptions, noting several situations in which further CG ravages could severely disturb flora, fauna, and roadless areas [7].  For the Wednesday, January 11, 2023, Climate Justice Forum, weekly radio program produced by WIRT and recorded and posted on the WIRT website, Paul graciously expounded on his knowledge of the probable damages of the lakeside Chloride Gold scheme [8].  WIRT shares a summary of these insights in the following sections intended to further inform and assist public input resisting this CG cause of regional climate chaos. Continue reading