MRL-BNSF Empty Coal Train Derailment in Ponderay, Idaho


Rain and snow melt washed-out, BNSF train tracks above the Black Rock, lead-contaminated, former smelter site on Lake Pend Oreille in Ponderay, Idaho (Joshua Voss photo)

At 6:05 am on a dark, rainy Saint Patrick’s Day, Friday, March 17, 50 to 60 empty cars and a rear locomotive of an eastbound, Montana Rail Link (MRL), unit coal train derailed, remained upright, caused no injuries, and released no obvious hazardous materials in Ponderay and Kootenai, Idaho [1-5].  The wreck occurred on MRL’s mainline, owned and operated in Idaho by Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway, a route typically carrying mixed freight and Powder River Basin coal – rarely Bakken shale oil and Alberta tar sands crude – from the east, through Missoula, around Lake Pend Oreille, and over the 4800-foot rail bridge southeast of Sandpoint.  Railroad first responders assessed the situation, located approximately 450 feet uphill and separated from the lake shoreline by a stretch of trees, only 250 feet from modest homes and two blocks from the post office and police station in Ponderay.  They would not estimate the timing of the re-opening of their tracks, but determined that recently intense rains and rapid snow melt had washed out a section of collapsed tracks “east of the intersection of Third Street and Cedar Avenue.” [6]

One set of train tracks and a Jersey barrier were suspended over a 30-foot-tall void in the railroad’s embankment on Friday.  At the bottom of the void was a current of storm water.  Other culverts under the tracks on Ponder Point appeared to be running at or near capacity on Friday afternoon…The cause of the wash-out remained under investigation…”High water levels and ground saturation are contributing factors.” [6]

The BNSF and MRL railroad companies, respectively based in Fort Worth, Texas, and Missoula, Montana, brought dozens of crew members, semi-trucks and trailers, and large pieces of ground and track-mounted, heavy equipment to staging areas east and west of the derailment, at Kootenai Bay Road and Seven Sisters Drive on both sides of Idaho Highway 200 in Kootenai, and at Fourth Street and Elm Avenue, adjacent to the railroad right-of-way in Ponderay, all photographed by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT).  Despite overwhelming railroad presence and close proximity to Ponderay houses, businesses, and government facilities, media stories rarely mentioned Ponderay as the location of this historic mishap, instead stating a derailment “west of Kootenai Bay Road in Kootenai, Idaho,” in the vicinity of a wealthy, lakeside, residential neighborhood.

While media reporters and government officials easily accessed the MRL-BNSF derailment mitigation staging site in Ponderay, to obtain crucial information, photographs of the damaged track area, and footage of interviews, nearby, impacted, community members and fossil fuel train monitoring and opposing activists could only reach the accident scene by vehicle and on foot for miles on snowy, lakeside trails, on muddy residential streets, and through wet forests, evading railroad cops to find, observe, and ascertain the accident scene [7-9].  At about 3 pm, two black helicopters left the Sandpoint Airport, circled over Lake Pend Oreille, and flew over the incident site.  Not until the following day, March 18, the local newspaper provided comprehensive event coverage confirming additional details of the emerging story.  By 4:48 pm on that rainy Saturday afternoon, a Kansas City Southern engine trailed one of the first, westbound, mixed freight trains crossing tracks repaired over the 30-foot chasm likely filled by the multiple dump trucks seen in the area since Friday. Continue reading

Valve Turners House Parties in Moscow & Sandpoint


Inspired by the “valve turners’” bold and decisive actions that shut down pipelines flowing from Canada to the primary tar sands market, America consumers, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) is hosting public house parties in Moscow and Sandpoint, to support these blockaders’ legal defense funds and to elevate conversations about rising to the challenges of this critical, historic moment [1].  In this era of a federal fossil fuel administration, building stronger communities of climate dissidents preparing for the next wave of direct actions is more crucial than ever.  So please join us at 6 pm on Thursday, March 9, at The Attic, up the back stairs of 314 East Second Street in Moscow, and/or at 12 noon on Saturday, March 11, in the upstairs room of Eichardt’s Pub at 212 Cedar Street in Sandpoint.  We welcome all participant ages and concerns at this Shut It Down – Climate Direct Action fundraiser requesting $10 suggested donations with free admission.

On October 11, 2016, five brave climate activists closed the emergency shut-off valves of five major pipelines carrying Canadian tar sands oil into Washington, Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota.  In solidarity with Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, and other Lakota nations and allied water protectors at resistance camps invaded by police, their nonviolent civil disobedience together stopped 15 percent of a day’s U.S. crude oil imports.  Now these activists and four accompanying documentarians are facing multiple felony and misdemeanor charges with maximum, potential, prison sentences ranging from 10 to 81 years.  Beyond some pro bono legal help, the group has had to hire several lawyers and needs to raise $50,000 to cover legal, trial, and travel expenses, as they tell their stories about urgent climate action.

Before setting out to cut chains and locks and block pipeline valves across the country, the tar sands valve turners – Annette, Emily, Ken, Leonard, and Michael – and their support crew – Ben, Reed, Sam, and Steve – were not specially trained activists.  They are just ordinary people with the strength of their convictions and the courage to act on them.  But their example, along with similar skills and practices, show how people rightfully concerned about climate catastrophe can stand up and take serious action in a time of denial and a world of “alternative facts.”  With the fossil fuel industry now not only controlling governments at every level in the U.S., but also holding positions of power within them, we all need to support folks already taking big legal risks and to move ourselves to that next step, by truthfully, assertively acting to halt the fossil fuel sources of climate cataclysm and our collective crimes against future generations.

During the last weekend in February, Shut It Down – Climate Direct Action and allies organized the first, experimental round of house parties, meeting with friends to raise funds to help the valve turners in Bellevue, Washington, Brooklyn, New York, Burlington, Vermont, Hanover, New Hampshire, and Houston, Texas.  Please gather with us at these fun events, held by dozens of groups across the country, introducing you and your friends, family, and colleagues to powerful climate direct action, and sharing the work of Shut It Down and WIRT.  We will provide valve turner videos and information about how to stage and live stream adventurous and effective actions.  For further event and co-host information, see ShutItDown.Today and WildIdahoRisingTide.org and contact us with your questions. Continue reading

Tell Idaho Representatives to Reject ITD Highway 12 Megaload Rules


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

Payette County Forced Pooling Protest


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IDAHO WATER IS LIFE!  FORCED POOLING IS DEATH!

Please join Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and allies at 8 am MST on Wednesday, December 14, for the Payette County Forced Pooling Protest on the Idaho Capitol steps at 700 West Jefferson Street in Boise, Idaho. Concerned citizens from throughout Idaho are coming together to stand in support of over 150 Payette County families and home, property, and business owners whom the state of Idaho and a Houston, Texas-based fossil fuel producer are pushing into oil and gas leases for integration, or “forced pooling,” of their private resources [1, 2].  Alta Mesa Idaho (AMI) integration applications to the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission could impose extraction of Idahoans’ oil and gas, with or without their permission, from three new wells, and perhaps many more, on two adjacent, one-square-mile sections of land and another, smaller tract in and near the Fruitland community.  With state approval, Alta Mesa and other toxic intruders could directionally drill, hydraulically fracture (“frack”), and chemically “treat” these wells beneath and only 200 feet on the ground from a few hundred subdivision homes and other structures like schools and hospitals, and under, next to, or within less than a mile of the Snake and Payette rivers and their wetlands and floodplains, and below already leased U.S. Highway 95 (See the attached photos of spacing units).

At 9 am on Wednesday, December 14, the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) is holding the first administrative hearings on contested AMI forced pooling applications since the Idaho Legislature passed SB1339 in March 2016, the egregious statute that changes and rushes the integration process to benefit the oil and gas industry and trample citizen rights anywhere in the state. The advocacy group Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability (CAIA) has retained constitutional law attorney James Piotrowski, of the law firm Herzfeld and Piotrowski, to represent a group of unwillingly integrated, officially objecting, Payette County mineral owners [3, 4].  In the Lincoln Auditorium, Room WWO2 in the lower level of the Idaho Capitol west wing, integration objectors will challenge the legality of the proposed spacing units and of IDL’s due processes that afford impacted landowners insufficient time and information to consider forced pooling applications and to consult attorneys, banks, and insurance companies about the adverse financial consequences of integration on property rights, values, mortgages, and insurance.

Participate in the 8 am protest and attend the 9 am hearings, continued if necessary at the same locations on Thursday, December 15, to show your support of hardworking, tax-paying, Payette County and regional residents, by serving as protesters, observers, witnesses, and testifiers. Oil and gas industry invasions accommodated by state sanctioned forced pooling could inevitably jeopardize air and water quality and quantity, contaminate ground and surface water, wells, and agricultural lands, and ultimately degrade the sustainability and quality of life in Idaho.  Because citizens throughout the Treasure Valley – from eastern Oregon to Twin Falls and in Ada, Canyon, Cassia, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Twin Falls, Washington, and other Idaho counties – could eventually endure the ravages of these same integration rules, Idahoans should demonstrate with a large turnout, noticed by public officials and media reporters, that a majority of us will confront these injustices that transcend southwestern Idaho.  In honor of Dakota Access pipeline resistance supporting the Standing Rock Sioux, it is time for us to rise up on Idaho’s fossil fuel frontlines and protect our waters and lands! Continue reading

Moscow & Sandpoint Host Tar Sands Pipeline Valve Turners


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Tar Sands Pipeline Valve Turners: Civil Disobedience

Featuring Leonard Higgins in person and Emily Johnston, Michael Foster, and Ken Ward via Skype

Saturday, December 3, 12 pm to 2 pm, in Eichardt’s Pub upstairs room, 212 Cedar Street, Sandpoint, Idaho

Sunday, December 4, 12 pm to 2 pm, in the 1912 Center Fiske Room, 412 E. Third Street, Moscow, Idaho

Public forums and fundraisers co-hosted by #ShutItDown – Climate Direct Action and Wild Idaho Rising Tide

$10 suggested donation for the #ShutItDown legal defense fund

All ages of participants and free admission are welcome.

On October 11, 2016, five brave climate organizers successfully closed the manual, emergency valves of five pipelines carrying oil from the Canadian tar sands into the northern United States [1, 2].  Their unprecedented acts of nonviolent direct action to avert climate cataclysm shut down 15 percent of U.S. crude oil imports for nearly a day.

Emily Johnston, age 50, and retired attorney Annette Klapstein, 64, each interrupted Enbridge’s Lines 4 and 67 pipelines in Leonard, Minnesota.  Michael Foster, 52, shut down TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline in Walhalla, North Dakota.  Leonard Higgins, 64, who locked down to a tar sands megaload in Umatilla in December 2013, halted the flow of Spectra Energy’s Express pipeline at Coal Banks Landing near Great Falls, Montana.  Ken Ward, 59, a Climate Disobedience Center and #ShutItDown co-founder, stopped Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline in Anacortes, Washington. Continue reading

Olympia Stand Blockade Talk


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Sandpoint/Olympia Activist Talks about Fracking Sand Train Blockade

Saturday, November 26, 12 noon

East Bonner County Library Room 104

1407 Cedar Street, Sandpoint, Idaho

Please join Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and allies at 12 noon on Saturday, November 26, in Room 104 of the East Bonner County Library, 1407 Cedar Street in Sandpoint, Idaho, for a public presentation offered by Brian Wolcott, an Evergreen College student, Olympia Stand activist, and Sandpoint resident.  With photos, videos, and descriptions, Brian will talk about the week-long Olympia Stand blockade of a train transporting Chinese fracking proppants from the Port of Olympia to the Bakken shale oil and gas fields in North Dakota, the source of leaky pipeline oil and explosive oil trains.  Between November 11 and 18, community demonstrations and an encampment on the tracks expressed solidarity with Native-led Dakota Access Pipeline resistance at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota and with indigenous sovereignty movements defending the water, fishing, and hunting rights of local tribes, before riot police injured, arrested, and dispersed blockaders and protesters in downtown Olympia, Washington.  For further event information, Olympia Stand media releases, regional and national news coverage of the blockade, and a donation site for arrestees’ legal funds, see the Olympia Stand public facebook group and the event announcement on the WIRT website [1, 2].

WIRT Meeting with Visiting Olympia Stand Activist

Although WIRT did not hold our usual, third Wednesday, monthly gathering in Sandpoint this November, we invite WIRT activists, allies, friends, and contacts to connect and start collaboration with an Olympia comrade during the Thanksgiving break.  Converge at 10:30 am for a private, closed-door, WIRT planning meeting, before Brian’s greatly appreciated noon presentation, in Room 104 of the East Bonner County Library.  Brian grew up in Sandpoint, and intends to return to the Coeur d’Alene area to organize resistance efforts, when he concludes his Evergreen education.  During his weekend visit with his family and hometown, he hopes to share and discuss with old friends and the Sandpoint activist community ideas and decisions about coal, oil, and fracking sand train protesting and monitoring, the role that police play in demonstrations, and any other helpful information.

Eastbound Fracking Proppant Train Monitoring

During most days and evenings, from our office window (a block away from the Amtrak station) and along Sand Creek, WIRT watches and documents westbound, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), unit coal and oil trains crossing downtown Sandpoint.  So we are happy to alert regional residents to the additional opportunity to monitor fracking proppant/sand train movements.  Olympia Stand and WIRT organizers ask that all of us notice and report to them any groups of a dozen, whitish, covered, eastbound rail cars carrying fracking sand from the Port of Olympia to the Bakken Basin in North Dakota.  Traversing the region first as unit trains on a short rail line to a Seattle train yard, then as parts of mixed freight trains on mainline BNSF tracks through Spokane, north Idaho, and the Montana Hi-Line, the hopper cars have a key, confirmed feature of two  (not the usual three) square, funnel-like ports on their bottoms.  To accomplish this trainspotting and report proppant cars, please view the color and shape, number of cars, and overall train composition in the clear photos and videos of the rail cars provided in these links, especially the Olympian video of the heavily guarded train rolling through Olympia after the blockade [3-5].  Together, Northwest climate and indigenous activists are observing and noting the amount of time typically required for fracking supplies to move from Olympia to Sandpoint to North Dakota. Continue reading

Third Idaho Oil & Gas Lease Auction Protest


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On Wednesday morning, October 19, southwest Idaho activists and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) are holding the third protest of a state oil and gas lease auction.  The Idaho State Board of Land Commissioners is selling 225 oil and gas leases of state lands and minerals at another public auction in Suite 103 Syringa North and South Conference Rooms at the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) offices, 300 North Sixth Street in Boise, Idaho [1].

Before bidder arrival for registration begins at 8:30 am MDT for the 9 am auction, gather with us at 8 am at the east side of Capitol Park, across the street from IDL, and then on the public sidewalk in front of the main IDL west entrance.  Please bring your posters, signs, chants, and songs objecting to further liquidation of state resources for private industry profit, despite state-perceived benefits for public agencies, institutions, and programs.  See descriptions of the last two state oil and gas lease auction protests for ideas about messages and tactics to challenge this first such state auction in over two years [2-5].

The state of Idaho has already, currently leased tens of thousands of surface and subsurface acres to only a few companies, for looming oil and gas drilling and potential hydraulic fracturing, acidizing, and other risky well stimulation treatments.  Since 2009, Bridge Resources and its more aggressive successor, Alta Mesa of Houston, Texas, have drilled or received state permits for dozens of wells, planning more dirty energy development for the Treasure Valley and elsewhere in Idaho than the company ever reveals.

Apparent from the strange placement of bargain priced lease parcels, shown in the maps of this October 19 round of IDL auctions, the latest scheme of Alta Mesa and bidder accomplices may involve visions of corridors for access, transportation, pipelines, or other infrastructure.  The state is almost giving away 4,404 acres in seven counties as 82 oil and gas leases in Canyon County, 73 in Payette County, 31 in Gem County, 23 in Ada County, 13 in Washington County, two in Bonneville County, and one oil and gas lease in Cassia County.  Remarkably, most of these leases lie along and adjacent to ten state and federal highways in the Treasure Valley – Idaho Highways 16, 19, 44, 52, 55, and 72, U.S. Highways 20, 30, and 95, and Interstate 84 – all threatening blocked public access to private lands [6, enclosed photo]. Continue reading

Comment by Friday on ITD’s Proposed Highway 12 Megaload Rules!


Nickel Brothers Weyerhaeuser Highway 12 Megaload

Nickel Brothers Weyerhaeuser Highway 12 Megaload

On Wednesday, September 28, dozens of Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) activists, friends, and allies across the state rallied in solidarity and spoke at concurrent, teleconferenced, public hearings on U.S. Highway 12 megaload rules proposed by the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD), at its headquarters in Boise and its district offices in Coeur d’Alene, Lewiston, Pocatello, Rigby, and Shoshone [1]. As the region prepares to confront another onslaught of megaloads through the ancestral lands and waters of the Nimiipuu people, protectors requested the presence of legal observers, state legislators, and various protest props signifying exclusion from public processes at these statewide hearings and accompanying demonstrations.

Police but no protests attended the Lewiston hearing, where Nimiipuu tribal members expressed concerns about their homelands above the Nez Perce Reservation, still essential to traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering practices in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest and the Lochsa-Middle Fork Clearwater Wild and Scenic River corridor in north-central Idaho. “Members of the Nez Perce Tribe have made it clear that, if megaloads return to U.S. 12, they’ll once again meet the shipments with protest.  ‘If those loads roll through here, [protests] will happen,’ Mary Jane Oatman, of Kamiah, told the Lewiston Tribune.  ‘I guarantee it will happen.’” [2, 3]

Although tribal officials did not participate in the Lewiston hearing, the Tribe issued a strong, critical statement against ITD’s “ineffectual” proposed rulemaking on Highway 12 megaloads [4]. The statement revealed that “ITD made no effort to contact the Nez Perce Tribe or the U.S. Forest Service before unilaterally proposing this rule.”  Amid three years of ongoing, confidential mediation among the Tribe, Forest Service, and Idaho Rivers United, mandated by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after a federal judge placed an injunction on certain Highway 12 megaloads, the statement also disclosed that these litigants invited ITD to join their negotiations in 2015.  ITD apparently declined this offer, intent on maintaining and imposing its perceived megaload permitting authority on unreceptive tribal and allied Highway 12 corridor residents and American citizens concerned about their public lands and waters.

Since October 2015, the most successful Highway 12 megaload hauler has applied for permits from ITD to move more behemoths of unknown kind and destination along the same route through the reservation, national forest, and protected river corridor. This Nickel Brothers application probably explains ITD’s rush to devise new Highway 12 megaload rules that attempt to circumvent federal court-ordered mediation.  While Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and allies monitored, protested, blockaded, and got arrested for resisting ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil tar sands megaloads rerouted from Highway 12 to U.S. Highway 95 and downtown Moscow streets in 2011 and 2012, Nickel Brothers transported 23 “unchallenged” megaloads up Highway 12 to a Weyerhaeuser pulp and paper mill in Grand Prairie, western Alberta [5, 6, enclosed photo].  Allies tried to convince WIRT to confront these shipments, then asked us not to protest the first Highway 12 megaloads to reach Alberta tar sands operations in late 2012, before the Nez Perce rose up in August 2013. Continue reading

Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition Benefit Concert with Tom Neilson


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Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition Benefit Concert with Tom Neilson

7 pm, Saturday, October 8

Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse,

420 East Second Street, Moscow, Idaho

$10 suggested admission donation

Several north Idaho groups are co-hosting the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition Benefit Concert, offered by singer-songwriter and long-time activist Tom Neilson, in Moscow on Saturday, October 8. Dubbed the Jon Stewart of folk music, Tom offers inspiration through his music to effect change [1].  He has performed his award-winning songs of humor and compassion in 21 countries on five continents.  His songs about historical and current events reflect his travels, intertwined with his farm roots and his fervent commitment to social justice.  Audiences celebrate Tom’s lyrics for their political astuteness, sophistication, and wit.

Concert co-sponsors Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition (PESC) and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) gratefully welcome everyone to participate in this community event providing a gathering place for people supporting the legal expenses of the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC), of which PESC and WIRT are grassroots, allied, member organizations. On August 18, PRDC filed a legal complaint against the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and the Federal Highway Administration in U.S. District Court for Idaho, challenging their environmental impact statement and record of decision issued for reconstructing, relocating, and expanding 6.5 miles of U.S. Highway 95 immediately south of Moscow [2-6].

Protecting nearby Paradise Ridge from inappropriate highway realignment since 2003, PRDC is disputing these agencies’ studies and selection of E-2, the easternmost of three proposed Highway 95 routes. ITD’s stubborn commitment to building the controversial E-2 route over the shoulder of Paradise Ridge threatens some of the best remnants of the estimated less than one percent of remaining, native, Palouse Prairie vegetation with weed invasion, wetland and prime farmland destruction, and wildlife habitat reduction.  The higher, 2,800- to 3,000-foot elevation of E-2 would subject highway travelers to more accidents during inclement and winter weather conditions, when 57 percent of mishaps on the current highway section occur, and would also risk more big game collisions closer to their habitat.

For this Saturday, October 8 opportunity for the Moscow-Pullman and greater Palouse community to support PRDC, the doors open at 6:30 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse, 420 East Second Street in Moscow, Idaho. Activist musician Tom Neilson begins his performance at 7 pm, for $10 suggested admission donations.  See the enclosed descriptions of Tom Neilson’s background and Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition concerns, and peruse the websites and facebook pages of Tom, PRDC, PESC, and WIRT, for further information about these endeavors [1-5].

Please print and post the linked, color, letter-sized, PDF version of the Tom Neilson Moscow Concert Flyer (tom-neilson-moscow-concert-flyer), invite your friends and family through the email messages and website and facebook links about this event, participate in this Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition Benefit Concert, and enjoy the rousing music of Tom Neilson! Continue reading

NO Means NO Megaloads Sit-In


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Are megaloads preparing to again invade U.S. Highway 12, through the remote Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest and the Lochsa-Middle Fork Clearwater Wild and Scenic River corridor? [1] On September 7, 2016, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) distributed a media release, read by a Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) activist to participants in the #NoDAPL Fundraiser and Rally in Lapwai, Idaho [2, 3].  ITD is proposing new, illegal rules for oversize shipments – megaloads – on Highway 12, seemingly to circumvent ongoing mediation among several parties to a federal lawsuit.  In September 2013, in response to this case argued by Advocates for the West for Idaho Rivers United (IRU) and the Nez Perce Tribe against the U.S. Forest Service, a federal district court in Boise issued an injunction blocking any transport wider than 16 feet, longer than 150 feet, and traveling slower than 12 hours on the 100 miles of Highway 12 between Kooskia, Idaho, and the Montana border [4, 5].  ITD’s version of the situation suggests that:

Recent federal litigation raised new considerations for certain oversize vehicles and non-reducible loads traveling through the Nez Perce National Forest (NPNF) on U.S. 12. The federal district court held that the United States Forest Service (USFS) has concurrent jurisdiction of vehicles and loads traveling through the NPNF.  The USFS responded and stated it would review all oversize vehicles/loads greater than 16 feet wide and/or 150 feet in length, when such vehicles or loads travel on U.S. 12 between milepost 74 and milepost 174.

While current federal lawsuit litigants have necessarily remained silent about the results of confidential negotiations developing criteria and rules for Highway 12 megaloads over the last three years, the Forest Service has only established interim oversize vehicle definitions, which the proposed ITD rules mimic, not regulations governing their movement. An outsider to mediation talks, ITD is currently rushing the usual, inclusive, rulemaking procedures, contending that IRU, the Nez Perce Tribe, and the Forest Service “have no apparent motivation to pursue a resolution in the mediation mentioned above.  Thus, a compromise or consensus cannot be reached through negotiation.” [5]  Anxious to devise new Highway 12 megaload rules and lure commenters to its side of this issue, the state transportation agency is perhaps again attempting to gain some legal control over megaload permitting decisions for the stretch of highway requiring U.S. Forest Service approval and consultation with Nez Perce officials.  But since U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill issued the Highway 12 megaload injunction, the state of Idaho lacks both the authority and discretion to allow certain types of shipments through this federally protected Wild and Scenic River corridor managed by the Forest Service, with required tribal and public input, for values generally contrary to massive, industrial equipment traffic.

Because tribal, conservation group, and federal agency representatives still engaged in mediation processes ordered by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cannot talk about this issue, indigenous and grassroots groups and individuals who know the extended history, background, and complex intricacies of the megaload issue must lead this round of resistance. We again call on allies across the region to assert diverse, creative responses seeking to abolish ALL fossil fuel and industrial infrastructure from Highway 12 and beyond, while supporting tribal and non-Native partners in this opposition.  Let’s maximize this opportunity to proactively unify our voices: NO MEANS NO to megaloads in Idaho!

Please join strong, statewide protests and sit-ins against proposed ITD rules for Highway 12 megaloads, led by Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) activists between 3 and 6 pm Pacific time/4 and 7 pm Mountain time on Wednesday, September 28, at the Idaho Transportation Department district office at 2600 Frontage Road in Lewiston, Idaho, during ITD’s public hearing presumably only livestreamed/teleconferenced from Boise, rather than from all of the hearing locations at ITD district offices [6]. As the region apparently readies to confront another onslaught of megaloads through the traditional, ancestral lands and waters of the Nimiipuu people, protectors have requested the presence of legal observers and state legislators at these protests.  We are encouraging friends across the state to arrive early and sign-up to speak, pack hearing rooms, rally at solidarity actions, reject these premature ITD rules, ask for an extension of the comment period and an expansion of hearing sessions to include impacted communities, and keep ITD officials listening long into the night at ITD headquarters in Boise at 3311 West State Street and at ITD district offices in Coeur d’Alene, Lewiston, Pocatello, Rigby, and Shoshone concurrently on Wednesday.  Moscow-Pullman carpools to Lewiston are departing at 2 pm on Wednesday from the parking lot near the Rosauers sign at 411 North Main Street in Moscow, Idaho. Continue reading