by Cara Gardner

Iron Honey Not So Sweet -- COEUR d'ALENE-- Environmental groups celebrated the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in their favor after a lengthy lawsuit against the Idaho Panhandle National Forest (IPNF). The court found the Forest Service in violation of the National Forest Management Act, the National Environmental Policy and its own forest plan. In addition, the Forest Service was found guilty of not using accurate scientific analysis preparing for the Iron Honey Restoration Project, a 1,400-acre cut that included some restoration.

"A lot of it was old trees and mature forest," explains Mike Petersen, executive director for the Lands Council, one of the local environmental groups involved in the lawsuit. Petersen says the findings validate what his group has long claimed: The IPNF has inaccurate inventory of its old growth.

"The Forest Service could take this to the Supreme Court. But I don't think that's too likely because we won on so many issues. It's pretty risky for them," Petersen says. The Lands Council is also partnered with other environmental groups in at least five other lawsuits against the IPNF.

"Some of the other forests in the area, particularly Colville [National Forest], seem to be reforming and are doing real fire reduction and are not cutting old growth," Petersen says. "The Panhandle seems to be doing what they've always done, and that's logging large trees as opposed to small diameter trees. The mills in Idaho are still set up to cut big trees."

Nature, Art, History -- NINE MILE FALLS, Wash. -- You can get a local history lesson when you visit Riverside State Park's newly painted mural on the exterior of the Spokane House Interpretive Center. A collaborative effort between the park, the Friends of Spokane House, local tribal representatives, the Inland Decorative Artists, Columbia Paint and the Washington State Park Commission, the mural is a depiction of life in the area, beginning in the early 1800s.

"What's interesting is the interpretive building is a 1966 state building that's pretty drab," says Mac Mikkelsen, lead park ranger for the Little Spokane Natural Area. "So we wanted to create something on the exterior that would portray what it [looked] like when the First Nation, or Indians, were first interacting with fur traders and trappers." The result is a detailed presentation of Nine Mile Falls before the dam was built, an Indian village, the trapping and trading and an interpretation of what the fort may have looked like. The mural wraps itself around three sides of the building. It was painted by volunteers from the Inland Decorative Artists. Columbia Paint donated all the paint for the project. Mikkelsen says the Interpretive Center closes after Labor Day.

"It's a living history -- it's really amazing," says Mikkelsen.

The Spokane House Interpretive Center is open Thursdays through Mondays, from 10 am to 6 pm through Labor Day weekend. The center is located about a mile and a half north of Nine Mile Falls. Admission is free.

Potluck Activism -- SPOKANE -- People are rallying around their potlucks. It's no wonder, really, since communities have been sharing home-cooked meals as long as anyone can remember. Now, church groups, nonprofits, community centers, schools, businesses -- any group with a potluck tradition -- have been asked to provide public comment that will help potlucks in Washington state remain free of regulations and licenses.

"The Washington state food code is being revised extensively for the first time since 1992," says David Gifford, food safety program manager for the Washington State Department of Health. Gifford says nothing specific needed to be changed about the food code, but that "we just decided after 10 years we should take a look at it." The state decided to adopt the FDA's model food code, with some modifications. That food code regulates all food service, including potlucks and bake sales. Though Gifford says the health districts wouldn't enforce those rules on churchgoers at a casserole competition, potluck activists are concerned.

"We looked at 'What is a potluck?' and 'Where does it cross the line from a public food service to a private event?'" says Gifford, adding that many potluck-goers have written in asking for immunity from the rules governing restaurants and food fairs. After much ado, the state's public comment period is drawing near. Comments must be received by Sept. 1 via the state's Web site, review. Go to "WAC 246-215, etc. Food Service Revisions," and click on "Comment."

Publication date: 08/19/04

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