For Immediate Release, March 10, 2020

Contact:

Andrea Santarsiere, Center for Biological Diversity, (303) 854-7748, asantarsiere@biologicaldiversity.org
Matt Nykiel, Idaho Conservation League, (208) 265-9565 x 2, mnykiel@idahoconservation.org
Adam Rissien, WildEarth Guardians, (406) 370-3147, arissien@wildearthguardians.org
Mike Petersen, The Lands Council, (509) 209-2406, mpetersen@landscouncil.org
James Lea, Selkirk Conservation Alliance, (208) 448-1110, sca@scawild.org

Lawsuit Challenges Trump Administration’s Construction of Northern Border Road

Reconstructing Northern Idaho Road Threatens Grizzly Bears, Caribou, Lynx

SANDPOINT, Idaho— Five conservation groups sued the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Customs and Border Protection today over their decision to reconstruct a northern Idaho road on the Canadian border that would harm imperiled grizzly bears, mountain caribou and other wildlife in the Selkirk Mountains.

“Building a road through this pristine area of northern Idaho would be an absolute disaster for already struggling populations of grizzly bear and caribou,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Not only is this proposed road bad for bears, it’s also totally unnecessary for border security. The Trump administration should drop this terribly destructive plan.”

Today’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Idaho, says the two federal agencies violated the National Environmental Policy Act and National Forest Management Act by failing to consider the road project’s impacts to grizzly bears and their habitat.

“Bog Creek Road runs right through the highest-priority area for grizzly bear recovery in the entire Selkirk Mountains,” said Brad Smith, North Idaho director at the Idaho Conservation League. “Any roadwork would disrupt a vital link to bear habitat north of the border.”

Running east to west, the road cuts through prime habitat for grizzly bears, Canada lynx, wolverines and other sensitive wildlife. The Forest Service closed Bog Creek Road in the late 1980s to protect Selkirk’s grizzly bears, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Now overgrown with vegetation, the road is considered core habitat for grizzly bears.

Customs and Border Protection officials argue that a restored road is needed to monitor border security, but has provided no evidence of current threats. Moreover, the agency can access the border through other avenues.

“Not only is the Bog Creek road project a threat to the grizzly recovery in the Southern Selkirks, it is an extraordinary waste of taxpayer dollars,” said James Lea of the Selkirk Conservation Alliance. “Leaving the remainder of the Bog Creek road choked with alder would be a more than adequate barrier to illegal border entry.”

“What these two federal agencies want to do would reduce the amount of habitat protection for grizzly bears and other wildlife,” said Mike Petersen, executive director for The Lands Council. “We will fight to stop this harmful, backwards project.”

The Forest Service decision also increases motorized use in the grizzly bear recovery area by allowing an unlimited number of trips under a special permit on more than 21 miles of road, and opens 4.9 miles of road #1009 for public use from July 15 – August 15 after being closed for 20 years. The agency cites a number of new closures to offset its harmful actions, but most of these roads are already fully vegetated and currently impassable.

“Closing roads on paper, while expanding motorized disturbances, will not help grizzly bears recover,” said Adam Rissien, a rewilding advocate at WildEarth Guardians. “The Forest Service should be increasing security for grizzly bears by removing unneeded roads and preventing illegal motorized use.”

GrizzlyBear_Yellowstone_NPS_FPWC.jpg
Grizzly bear photo courtesy of Yellowstone National Park Service. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Idaho Conservation League is Idaho’s leading voice for conservation.

The Lands Council has been protecting the forests, water and wildlife of the Inland Northwest for 35 years.

The Selkirk Conservation Alliance has been the faithful guardian of the Southern Selkirk ecosystem for more than 30 years.

WildEarth Guardians protects and restores the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health of the American West.