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Debate over Nez Perce forest plan comes to Montana

Posted at 9:26 PM, Feb 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-21 23:26:28-05

MISSOULA — The latest effort to update the Forest Plan for the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest comes to Montana during the weekend, as the US Forest Service gathers public comment on the proposed rules.

The USFS is working to update the 1987 Forest Plan, a process that's run into a number of delays in recent years -- including the decision to merge the Nez Perce and Clearwater National forests.

The agency has a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed plan, which governs everything from recreation to logging to wilderness management and set aside. But that complexity is already drawing concern from environmental groups, who say the proposed Forest Plan doesn't do enough to protect grizzly bear and other wildlife habitat from logging and road building.

"We have the Idaho Roadless Rule, which isn't very protective. It allows logging under most of the management themes. And that's the problem," said Gary Macfarlane from Friends of the Clearwater. "And this plan doesn't correct those problems, even in areas that might choose to be recommended as wilderness. In theory some of those areas could be logged, which is just astounding."

Nez Perce-Clearwater Forest staff took comment in St. Regis on Friday evening and additional open houses are planned on Saturday at the USFS headquarters in Missoula and in Hamilton.