Tower project litigation snuffed

Print Article

Firefighter crews extinguish hot spots on the Tower Fire. (Photo courtesy KEITH CURRIE, keithcurrie

SANDPOINT — A lawsuit challenging two post-wildfire restoration projects on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest has been extinguished, according to U.S. District Court records.

Judge B. Lynn Winmill, chief federal judge for the district of Idaho, granted a stipulated motion to dismiss the lawsuit challenging the Tower and Grizzly fire salvage and restoration projects on Monday. The project arose from wildfire damage caused in 2015, which charred 47,500 acres of forest.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Forest Service moved jointly to dismiss the litigation earlier this month after the alliance was denied a preliminary injunction by the district court last year, prompting the conservation group to seek redress via the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The 9th Circuit, however, affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

Attorneys for the Alliance and the Forest Service also noted that both the Tower and Grizzly projects are over 99-percenet complete due to the declaration of an emergency situation.

“It would not be an efficient use of resources to file and litigate summary judgment cross-motions at this time because the projects likely will be complete before a decision on summary judgment could be issued,” attorneys on the case said in the motion.

The alliance filed suit against the Forest Service’s top brass in 2016, arguing that the public comment process on the projects’ analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act was too slight and raised questions about who would determine which trees were dead or dying. The litigation further questioned the Forest Service’s emergency-situation determination and a decision not to conduct a more rigorous environmental review under NEPA, according to the civil complaint.

Winmill found that the agency undertook numerous efforts to involve the public in the projects and also ruled that the emergency declaration was neither arbitrary nor capricious. Those rulings were ultimately upheld by the 9th Circuit.

“The court concludes that alliance has failed to show it has raised questions on the merits of its claims,” circuit court judges Ferdinand Fernandez, William Fletcher and Michael Melloy said in the Jan. 17 ruling.

The American Forest Resource Council filed friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of the Panhandle Forest Collaborative and Bonner County, in addition to Pend Oreille County, Wash., and Mineral County, Mont.

The project were designed to produce up to 55 million board feet in timber sales. The sales were purchased by AFRC members which include Idaho Forest Group, Tricon Timber and Vaagen Bros. Lumber. AFRC held that the timber volume is essential to member operations and economies in the tri-state area.

“The 9th Circuit acknowledged the strong public support for the projects, determined that carefully-designed post-fire projects are an important tool for the Forest Service, and the court recognized the body of science suggesting post-fire treatment is needed to restore forested conditions and prevent future fires,” AFRC said in a statement on Monday.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

Print Article

Read More Local News

Vet home may come sooner

September 23, 2018 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press By BRIAN WALKER Hagadone News Network POST FALLS — Supporters of a future Idaho veterans home in Post Falls hope the project will hit a faster track to construction thanks to a proposed increase ...


Read More

NIC creates two healthcare programs

September 23, 2018 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee COEUR d’ALENE — North Idaho College has been awarded a $207,590 Idaho Department of Labor grant to fund two new courses in the healthcare field: Medical Assistant Apprenticeship and Patient Care Tech...


Read More

Accused vandal floods City Hall

September 23, 2018 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee SANDPOINT — A day before crashing his vehicle during a police pursuit in Ponderay, a Bonner County man caused flooding at City Hall that resulted in damages of $12,000, according to court documents. ...


Read More

CANSS outlines smelter legal challenges

September 23, 2018 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee NEWPORT — A judge has been appointed to begin hearing arguments in a lawsuit which seeks to void the sale of public property purchased by PacWest Silicon, according to counsel for the Citizens Agains...


Read More

Contact Us

(208) 263-9534
PO Box 159
Sandpoint, ID 83864

©2018 Bonner County Daily Bee Terms of Use Privacy Policy