Priest Lake, Idaho -- An environmental watchdog group is alleging that illegal logging is taking place in the mountains surrounding one of North Idaho's recreational gems. The Kootenai Environmental Alliance says 11 trees were illegally harvested and taken from Forest Service land that is currently under a logging injunction.
"I went out there myself, and it looked like a new skid trail and freshly cut trees on either side of it," says Barry Rosenberg, a KEA board member. A coalition including the KEA and the Lands Council has sought the overturning of a salvage logging law that allows timber to be taken if it is dead, dying or likely to be killed by infestation. The problem, says Rosenberg, is that applying such a loose standard has led to cutting healthy trees. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has placed an injunction on logging in the area until a motion for summary judgment is decided on by a lower court. In the meantime, loggers have been allowed to take trees already on the ground, which has led to some frustration and abuses, including this latest episode.
"We're severely understaffed," says Rosenberg of his group's ability to keep a watchful eye on the forests in question. "This should be the agency's job."
So far, the Priest Lake Rangers' office has said the loggers in question were taking down trees that were hung up as they fell to the ground. The rangers won't name the loggers.
Rosenberg says the Douglas-fir Beetle Project, as the salvage operation is called, did a lot of damage before his group could win the injunction, including a 164-acre clear-cut that is visible from Priest Lake. The forests around Priest Lake are among the most diverse in the entire region, supporting a wide variety of trees.
"This sale has removed much of the genetic diversity out there," says Rosenberg, "because it has removed some of the biggest Doug fir. They've even taken hemlock and cedar -- some really big ones."
The KEA's attempt to reverse the Beetle Project claims that it allows opportunistic logging of healthy trees. And while some argue that the project will help with fire suppression, Rosenberg says the damage from erosion is worse.
"All the drainages around there are considered by the Forest Service as already 'distressed,' " he says. "And it will only get worse as this continues."
Spokane -- Starting Tuesday, one of Spokane's favorite parks will get a little harder to reach. Changes funded by the 1999 Park Improvement Bond are set to be implemented, and the construction will close parts of the park between September 4 and November 15.
The Grand Boulevard entrance will be closed, along with the parking area by the picnic shelter and play structure. The shelter and the play structure will also be closed. For a short time in early October, the Shoshone Avenue entrance, the Bernard entrance, the Rose Garden Loop Drive and the parking near the Park Bench will be closed as well.
The good news is that once completed, the park will feature significant improvements. The restrooms near the Duck Pond will be updated to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards, and traffic will be improved with a new parking area, a bike path and sidewalks.