Every year there are numerous proposals to log, mine, and otherwise develop public lands. While we need some of the resources that come from these projects, some projects would simply cause more harm than good.

That’s where ICL comes in. Our four public lands team members track every project proposed on public lands in Idaho. The National Environmental Policy Act provides that federal agencies must involve the public in decisions regarding the use of their natural resources. We strive to review every project proposal and engage agency decision makers as needed, often submitting official comments and encouraging Idahoans to submit their own.

Despite our efforts to change or prevent harmful projects from happening, sometimes agency officials approve projects that will result in significant environmental harm. Even in the face of comment letters and advocacy, sometimes our efforts fall flat.

However, depending on the type of project proposed, ICL can file an administrative objection in some of these cases. This is not a judicial process. Instead, by filing an objection, we have an opportunity to point out situations where agencies have violated the law before going to court. Objections can also create an opportunity to negotiate changes to a project in response to potential environmental harm.

For example, we recently filed an administrative objection to the Breccia Beta Exploration Drilling Project on the Salmon-Challis National Forest in the Panther Creek watershed west of Salmon. Panther Creek is a major tributary of the Salmon River and home to endangered salmon and steelhead. Despite the project’s proximity to Panther Creek, it was originally approved without any water quality monitoring provisions. ICL worked with our partners at Idaho Rivers United to successfully reach an objection resolution with the Forest Service. Under the terms of the resolution, the project will now require surface water monitoring at four strategic locations and groundwater monitoring if groundwater is encountered during drilling. Thanks to our efforts, both the Forest Service and the public will now be able to assess whether this drilling project is negatively impacting water quality.

We also recently filed an objection to the Dead Laundry Project on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest, which calls for building more than forty miles of new roads to cut about 2,000 acres of timber in the North Fork Clearwater River Drainage. This is blue ribbon cutthroat trout and bull trout country. The project will simply cause too much sediment to go into the North Fork and Kelly Creek. Although we have not yet met with the Forest Service to talk about our objection, we hope to use this process to negotiate changes to the project in an effort to protect water quality and fish.

This is the kind of advocacy work that doesn’t always get reported in our newsletters, our blog, or on our social media channels. Nonetheless, this is important work, and someone has to be the watchdog for our public lands. ICL is honored to serve that role for you and all Idahoans who use and treasure our public lands.

To stay updated on issues facing Idaho’s public lands and our work, sign up for ICL Public Lands email updates

Plus, take action TODAY for Idaho’s public lands by voicing your support for the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) newly proposed Public Lands Rule, which would finally put conservation on equal footing with extractive industries! Comments are being accepting through July 5, and the BLM needs to hear you voice your support in order to strengthen and move ahead with this rule.