Group Opposes Burning Close to Historic Trail in Idaho

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) -- Some environmental groups are opposing a plan to cut fire-killed trees near Wendover Ridge in the Clearwater National Forest, saying they are too close to the historic Lewis and Clark Trail.

The Wendover Fire Salvage Project, 10 miles west of Powell, would log about 1.1 million board feet of timber from 117 acres burned in the 2003 Wendover Ridge Fire in 2003.

Powell Ranger District Ranger Joni Packard said the burned trees would be removed and the green trees would be left standing. Between 30 and 50 percent of the trees in the three units of the timber sale will be left standing.

The Wendover Ridge Trail, which some believe was used by the Lewis and Clark Expedition and connects the Lochsa River to the Lolo Motorway, runs through the area.

The contractor will be required to remove the logs with a helicopter and no permanent roads will be constructed.

The agency will build a 200-foot road so logging trucks can reach a helicopter landing pad.

Not everyone believes the trail used today is the same one used by Lewis and Clark and the Nez Perce Tribe. Gene Eastman, a former game warden for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said today's trail was built by the U.S. Forest Service in the 1930s.

The Idaho Conservation League in Boise and the Friends of the Clearwater in Moscow also oppose the salvage sale.

''We can not understand how the Forest Service would see the reasonableness or the purpose of logging the Lewis and Clark Trail during the bicentennial,'' said Jonathan Oppenheimer of the Idaho Conservation League at Boise. ''It would be akin to melting down the Liberty Bell for scrap metal.''

But members of the Governor's Lewis and Clark Trail Committee, the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service say the cut is nothing to fear.

''I think there are a lot more damaging things you can do on the trail route than forest management,'' said committee member and University of Idaho professor Jim Fazio. ''I just don't think this will have a significant impact on the trail.''

If the project is not litigated, the logging could begin in June and be completed within a month, Packard said.

Forest Service officials studied the possible effects the logging would have on threatened and endangered species, soil conditions, water quality and the trail and determined there would be no impact, officials said.

Information from: Lewiston Tribune