Helicopter Logging Begins in Selway After a Judge Bars Traditional Logging 

click to enlarge - Helicopter logging began in the Selway salvage area Sept. 9. -  - IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF LANDS
  • Idaho Department of Lands
  • Helicopter logging began in the Selway salvage area Sept. 9.
Hundreds of dirt logging roads zigzag through Idaho's backcountry, and one particular road was brought into question earlier this summer, when the U.S. Forest Service granted permission to the Idaho Department of Lands to use it to transport salvaged logs.

The logs come from the Johnson Bar Fire, which burned in 2014. It burned more than 13,000 acres near Syringa, and the state hoped to salvage the burnt logs for more than $2 million. That money, according to a news release from the Idaho Department of Lands, would go towards Idaho's school system.

The operation was halted before it could even begin by Idaho U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill in July, when Idaho Rivers United and Dr. Morgan Wright—a property owner with a portion of the road on his land—sued the Forest Service for authorizing IDL to use the road for logging trucks.

"The controversy isn't about logging," said IRU Conservation Director Kevin Lewis. "It's about using a road that runs through the Wild and Scenic River corridor for a commercial or industrial use."

Lewis said that's an illegal use of the road in a Wild and Scenic corridor. Though the burnt area the state wants to log isn't in the corridor, the logs would have to be transported through it. He said the state planned on thousands of logging trucks traveling on the narrow road, which he described as little more than a dirt track created in the 1930s.

IDL made it clear the department isn't thrilled about the hurdle.

click to enlarge - Helicopter logging is more expensive than transporting timber by truck. -  - IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF LANDS
  • Idaho Department of Lands
  • Helicopter logging is more expensive than transporting timber by truck.
"Without the legal challenge by Idaho Rivers United and Dr. Morgan Wright [the property owner], the Selway Salvage Sale would have brought in more than $2 million to the endowment fund that supports Idaho's public school system," the press release said. 

"Without harvesting the fire-damaged area and replanting it to generate a new, healthy forest to benefit future generations of Idaho school children, the trees and surrounding forests will become infested with bark beetles and other insects, and erosion will damage waterways in the area, including the Selway River."

The Idaho Department of Lands planned to plant 40,000 new trees in the years following this harvest, according to a fact sheet.

Rather than sending in logging trucks, the IDL will log the land with helicopters—a very expensive feat. Instead of the $2 million the department counted on, the salvage logging will bring in about $630,000.

"They're trying to twist it," Lewis said. "We're not taking money out of the mouths of children. The state has a right to log public land. It doesn't have the right to bully its way through the Morgan Wright property. We—IRU—we're not suing the state. We're suing the Forest Service for their decision in not protecting the conservation easements."

The lawsuit itself is still pending, but Winmill ordered an injunction for the time being. 

"You don't get an injunction unless you have a strong possibility of winning," Lewis said. "We feel pretty good about it right now."

The helicopter logging began Sept. 9.

- The Johnson Bar Fire burned near the Selway Wild and Scenic River corridor, where IRU said logging trucks aren't allowed. -  - INCIWEB
  • InciWeb
  • The Johnson Bar Fire burned near the Selway Wild and Scenic River corridor, where IRU said logging trucks aren't allowed.

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