U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Secretary has accepted Gov. Jim Risch’s plan for the 9.3 milion acres of national forest roadless area in Idaho. It is now slated to be become part of the Code of Federal Regulations.
While such a regulation is not as hard to change as a law passed by Congress (as designated Wilderness areas must be), it is very difficult to alter such a rule. My guess is that Risch’s plan will put a strongly direct the general management of this huge swatch of roadless areas, the most national forest roadless area of any state.
On the surface Risch’s plan doesn’t look that bad, especially compared to states like Utah. Only 500,000 acres would be open for permanent road building and logging. Of course, you have to consider why Idaho has 9.3-million acres of roadless area — the land is generally steep, rocky, too cold, too arid, and/or too inferile to manage for timber production. Even in the past, most of the national forest timber sales south of the Salmon River (which flows east to west across the middle of Idaho) lost money, i.e., were taxpayer-subdized timber sales.
The plan essentially alows no development of 3.1 million acres. Temporary road-building could take place 5.5 million acres, under rules that would allow entry for “forest health.” It should not noted that “forest health” and activities that foster it or prevent unhealth have no objective standard. So those 5.5-million acres may or may not be protected. My guess is that future politics will determine that as well as appropriations to the Forest Service. Whenever there is a bad forest fire season, there tends to be a lot of talk about forest health.