November 17, 2016
A U.S. District Court judge for Idaho has denied a request for a temporary restraining order to halt two post-fire management projects on the site of the 2016 Pioneer Fire. On November 14, Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled environmental groups suing the Boise National Forest and U.S. Forest Service would be unlikely to succeed on claims that the projects would adversely impact bull trout populations. Nor would they succeed on claims that the agency violated forest plan soil standards, or was required to prepare a lengthy Environmental Impact Statement for the projects, called Pioneer North and Pioneer South.
American Forest Resource Council (AFRC) provided an attorney to represent Boise County and the Boise Forest Coalition as intervenors in the case. The Boise Forest Coalition is a broadbased group of stakeholders that came together to seek common ground toward forest management, and includes representatives of conservation groups, industry, local governments, and others concerned with responsible forest management.
The Pioneer Fire burned nearly 190,000 acres after igniting north of Idaho City on July 18, 2016, affecting over 20 drainages within the Idaho City, Lowman, and Emmett Ranger Districts on the national forest. It was the largest wildfire on national forest land last year, and the ninth most expensive wildfire in the history of the western United States. Even after the fire was finally contained last fall, the fire left dead and dying trees along roadways, and a massive burn scar that increased the risks of flooding in the area.
Soon after the fire, the Boise National Forest worked with the county and the Boise Forest Coalition, consisting of local officials, forest sector representatives, conservation groups and motorized users, to prepare timber salvage and forest rehabilitation projects in portions of the burn areas. Action would also speed the economic recovery of communities such as Idaho City, Lowman and Garden Valley that depend heavily on recreation and tourism activities that were lost from the fire. The national forest successfully requested and received an “Emergency Situation Determination” from the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service to expedite the projects’
“The projects were a collaborative effort and are designed to address hazards to public safety and recreation, restore forested conditions in severely burned areas, address and improve watershed conditions via decommissioning of unauthorized roads, and recover value of burned timber in order to enable other project objectives to be accomplished and support the local economy,” said AFRC General Counsel Lawson Fite. “We are pleased Judge Winmill denied the request for a restraining order so these important recovery and reforestation projects can continue.”