Nez Perce Victory: U.S. Forest Service Forbids Mega-Loads Along Highway 12
In the wake of a federal court’s ruling requiring consultation with the Nez Perce and other tribes over the transport of mega-loads, the U.S. Forest Service has closed the federally protected scenic stretch to the humongous shipments.
Beginning just east of Kooskia and extending to the border between Idaho and Montana, the ban covers a 100-mile-long piece of the highway that runs through Lochsa-Clearwater Wild and Scenic River corridor, the Associated Press reported on September 18. The road also winds right through the Nez Perce reservation, just 50 feet from the tribe’s most sacred site.
It’s the second victory for those opposed to the football-field-sized loads being trucked along the environmentally sensitive road. On September 13 a federal judge ruled that the mega-loads had to be stopped pending further review and directed the U.S. Forest Service to study the scenic corridor further and consult with the tribe before allowing any more.
In August Nez Perce Tribal Council Chairman Silas Whitman and dozens of others were arrested protesting the transport of a 644,000-pound, 225-foot-long water evaporator along the scenic route by shipper Omega Morgan, which had obtained state permits but not been reviewed. After the judge’s ruling, Whitman said the tribe would keep pushing for a ban.
The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission has also come out against the mega-loads.
The U.S. Forest Service order, signed by regional forester of the northern region Faye Krueger, “suspends all future trucking of big and wide loads” for the time being, the Associated Press said.
The materials are destined for the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, where they will further development of the massive industrial complex—another reason the Nez Perce and environmentalists have protested.
“The closure order is effective immediately and is in place until the agency agrees to lift it, mostly likely when forest officials complete a study on the impacts the shipments could have on the river corridor,” the Associated Press said. “The agency has also vowed to consult with tribal officials on the impact to treaty rights and cultural values.”