article photo RNybcqichRbMPrAFnANU2.jpg

American Whitewater Appeals Bad Forest Plan in Idaho

Posted: 02/08/2024
By: Kevin Colburn

Last week, American Whitewater, along with several other national and regional organizations, filed a formal appeal of the Nez Perce Clearwater National Forest’s new management plan. The new plan took well over a decade for the Agency to produce, and included an unprecedented reduction in river protections. These streams offer vast habitat for salmon and steelhead shortly upstream of the Snake River dams, and are recreational treasures for paddlers and other river enthusiasts from around the Country. The Forest Service is clear that they are releasing streams from both long-held and promised protections so that they can conduct logging and other projects on the Forest without the need to protect river values while they do it. 

American Whitewater’s Appeal: Our appeal, called an “objection” in Forest Service parlance, outlines both policy errors with the Agency’s approach as well as logical and factual flaws. We show that the process they used to release streams from protection is not legal or appropriate. They call this process “suitability” in which they rely on political pressure and personal staff preference to override their factual basis for protecting stream values. Other National Forests do not do this. We show that they wrongly failed to even consider protecting all the qualifying (eligible) streams in their analysis, and that they failed to disclose the impacts of their decision to remove stream protections in place since 1990 or earlier. We show that they exaggerated the effects of protecting stream values on their ability to manage the forest. And we show that the logical gymnastics they went through to try to justify not protecting such important streams fall flat. You can read our objection here

The Stats: The new Forest Service plan will eliminate protections for 366 miles of Wild and Scenic eligible rivers that have been protected since 1990, and for a total of 697 miles of streams they found eligible and should have protected in this planning process. Of 88 streams they found eligible, 29 of which have been protected as eligible since 1990, they only protected 12 in their final plan."

How You Can Help: Our objection now goes to the Regional Forester, Leanne Marten, who will decide the fate of these 70+ rivers and streams. There are no more official public comment periods for this process. With that said, river enthusiasts are encouraged to respectfully email Regional Forester Marten with personal stories about these streams and their importance, and with requests to protect them as “eligible” and/or “suitable” for Wild and Scenic designation. Her email address is:

Status of Specific Rivers

Rivers losing protections in place since 1990 (eligible but deemed unsuitable for designation):

  • North Fork Clearwater River

  • South Fork Clearwater River (including Golden Canyon)

  • Bargamin Creek, Slate Creek and White Bird Creek (Salmon tributaries)

  • Bear Creek complex, Moose Creek complex, Running Creek, Three Links Creek, West Fork Gedney Creek (Selway tributaries)

  • Lake Creek (Lochsa Tributary)

Rivers the Forest Service found eligible designation in the plan, and should have protected, but instead released from protections (deemed eligible but not suitable for designation0: 

  • Potlatch River

  • Lolo Creek

  • Elk Creek

  • Big Sand Creek, Brushy Fork, Crooked Fork, Old Man Creek, Storm Creek, Warm Springs Creek, and other Lochsa tributaries.

  • Upper Lochsa River

  • Sabe Creek, Big Mallard Creek, and other Salmon River tributaries. 

  • Red River, Silver Creek, American River, and other South Fork Clearwater tributaries. 

  • Many North Fork Clearwater tributaries

The 12 streams they did decide to protect as eligible or suitable in the new Forest Plan. 

  • Cayuse Creek, Kelly Creek + North and South forks, Little North Fork Clearwater, Weitas Creek (North Fork Clearwater tributaries)

  • Fish Creek, Hungary Creek, Colt Killed Creek (Lochsa tributaries)

  • Meadow Creek (Selway tributary)

  • Salmon River (near Riggins)

South Fork Clearwater Photo by John Webster


Kevin Colburn

Asheville, NC

Full Profile
Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!