legislation designed to protect Alaska's wild areas may enable a
timber company to build at least 21 miles of new road through
endangered species habitat on public and private lands in the
Selkirk Range of Idaho and Washington.
Lumber Company says it is guaranteed access to its checkerboard of
national forest inholdings by the Alaska National Interest Lands
Conservation Act, passed by Congress in 1980. A federal court ruled
in 1981 that under ANILCA, landowners must be allowed "reasonable
access" to inholdings, not only in Alaska but in national forests
The company has threatened suit
against the Forest Service to force a decision on the road
requests, first proposed in 1992. The Forest Service attempted to
broker land exchanges with Stimson, but is running out of options
that might satisfy both Stimson and wildlife
Under the Endangered Species Act, U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service biologists must examine the impacts of
Stimson's roads on threatened grizzly bear, caribou and lynx
populations, but the Service acknowledges that their findings
rarely result in a project's
Approval of Stimson's proposals
would invite a volley of legal challenges by environmentalists.
"The Forest Service is saying ANILCA trumps the Endangered Species
Act," says Mark Sprengel of the Selkirk Conservation Alliance. "We
say the ESA should take precedence."
supervisors in the Colville and Idaho Panhandle national forests
may reach a decision as early as April.