[Vision2020] Local forest chief chose not to stop megaload

Moscow Cares moscowcares at moscow.com
Sat Aug 17 04:31:36 PDT 2013

Courtesy of today's (August 17, 2013) Lewiston Tribune.

Local forest chief chose not to stop megaload
Forest supervisor Brazell states case for not exercising authority in letter to Nez Perce Tribe
Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell said in a letter to the Nez Perce Tribe that his agency has authority over megaload traffic, but chose not to exercise that authority last week.
That decision was made as Omega Morgan shipped a 21-foot-wide, 644,000-pound evaporator through the forest and its Middle Fork of the Clearwater/Lochsa Wild and Scenic River corridor via U.S. Highway 12.
"I fully recognize the U.S. District Court has ruled that my agency has full authority to protect the Highway 12 corridor and its values notwithstanding the state of Idaho's easement for U.S. 12," Brazell said in a letter sent Monday to Nez Perce Tribal Chairman Silas Whitman. "Over our objection, the state issued a permit to Omega Morgan. The Forest Service has made the discretionary decision not to seek enforcement action with respect to this shipment for a number of reasons."
That shipment spawned four nights of protests by tribal members and environmentalists and led to dozens of arrests, including seven of the nine Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee members. The tribe and Idaho Rivers United filed a federal lawsuit against the Forest Service Aug. 9 for failing to stop the shipment. A hearing in that case has been set for Aug. 27.
In his letter, Brazell went on to say his agency is quickly collecting data on the social, cultural and aesthetic effects of megaload traffic passing through the forest. But until that effort is finished, the agency has little to base enforcement on. He said the Forest Service is not quick to go to court, especially when it involves suing a state, and that the agency doesn't feel it could start legal proceedings prior to consulting with the tribe on the megaload issue.
In a response letter sent Thursday, Whitman said the agency's decision not to exercise authority over the shipment "is not an acceptable or reasonable explanation" and "the tribe observes that the legal context surrounding this matter is one in which the Forest Service does not have the discretion to choose not to enforce any or all of the (multiple) protective federal authorities Congress has delegated to it regarding the national forest, the Wild and Scenic River and the U.S. treaty-reserved rights and resources of a federally recognized Indian tribe."
Brazell met with officials from the Idaho Transportation Department Friday in Boise and asked them to not issue any megaload permits during the next six weeks. In an interview with the Tribune, he said that request was denied.
"We really pleaded with them to give us the six weeks but they feel like their regulations don't allow that," he said.
Brazell said he was made to understand the state may receive another megaload permit application as soon as next week. He also said his agency feared it would be vulnerable to a counter lawsuit if it tried to block last week's shipment by going to court. Without data showing megaloads will negatively effect the river corridor, he said his agency would not have been able to clearly state why it was taking action.
"We would have been viewed as arbitrary and we would have lost, Brazell said, "That is why we want to consult with the tribe and why we want to get a study so we would have something to point to."
Forest Service law enforcement officers might have been able to issue a citation to the company, but Brazell said that would not have stopped the load.
"A lot of the fines and forfeitures are very very low. They are not real high, $100 or less," he said. "It would be like giving somebody a speeding ticket."
The tribe and Forest Service are scheduled to begin consultations Tuesday over megaloads. Whitman said in his letter that the process will take some time to complete.
Brazell said he believes his agency and the tribe still have a strong working relationship, despite the lawsuit.
"I'm really looking forward to sitting down with the tribe in an official capacity about this sensitive issue and coming up with a strategy to capture this data that we don't have," he said.


Meanwhile, a megaload (comparable to the one that trespassed Nez Perce tribal land on August 5th) sits (at the ready) at the Port of Wilma.  Any guesses as to when it will embark on its unwelcome journey on Highway 12?  I'm guessin' next week, prior to the court's decision on August 27th whether or not to allow subsequent megaloads on Highway 12.

Stay tuned, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares" (the most fun you can have with your pants on)
Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho
"This is the 'Mouse that Roared,' 'David and Goliath' and 'Avatar' all rolled into one.  We must remember that the thousands of citizens involved in this effort to protect their personal and family safety, their businesses and their lifestyles are confronting some of the largest international corporations in the world."

~ Linwood Laughy ~

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