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Entries in U.S. Forest Service (12)


Oath Keepers continue vigil in Lincoln 

(LINCOLN)- Oath Keepers, and other armed groups, that have come to Lincoln for a "security operation" to "protect" a mining claim say they aren't in a "standoff" with the U.S. Forest Service. 

Members of Oath Keepers, the Pacific Patriot Network and III% of Idaho began arriving in the Upper Blackfoot Valley Monday for a "security mission to protect the White Hope Mine and related claims in Lewis & Clark County." In a press release, Oath Keepers leaders say the "aim of this operation is to act as a buffer between the miners and any unlawful action by the United States Forest Service." 

The group came at the request of Intermountain Mining, which says it has ownership of the claim under the original U.S. mining laws established in 1872. However, the Forest Service has said later, post-1955 rules apply because of a dispute over the status of the claim being renewed in the 1980s. 

Intermountain has posted no trespassing signs at the claim, and Oath Keepers and the other groups say they are there to make sure there is "no unlawful entry" to the mine site by the Forest Service, federal contractors or anyone else.

However, the group says it's not a standoff.

"This is a security operation for the protection of Constitutional Rights," the group writes. "If you have a different agenda outside of the above peaceful mission statement, we don't want your assistance."


Forest Service delays action on controversial photo permits

Dennis Bragg photo(WASHINGTON, D.C.)- Montana Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh are blasting the U.S. Forest Service for its proposal to impose stringent rules requiring expensive permits for photography in backcountry wilderness areas. 

The proposal by the Forest Service would have expanded the agency's recent policy of requiring the permits, especially for commercial videography on public lands. That rule came in response to the growing number of outdoor reality shows which are often filmed on BLM and Forest Service lands. 

However, the latest proposal would add a specific layer of restrictions applicable to wilderness areas. The rules were up for public comment now, but had gained little attention outside of professional photographers. Objections began to spread this week through social media. 

Thursday, Walsh and Tester sharply criticized the Forest Service, noting in particular that the permits, which could cost upwards of $1,500 with $1,000 fines could infringe on First Amendment rights for news and media outlets. 

“We have grave concerns and are deeply skeptical of the government putting limits on activity protected under the First Amendment,” Tester and Walsh said.  “We urge you to withdraw and redraft the directive in a way that addresses these concerns by not subjecting the press to this proposed permitting process.”

The Forest Service said late Thursday it would delay finalizing the draft rules until the proposal could be reviewed with "stakeholders". 

The National Park Service has had similar permit policies on the books for years, but enforcement of the requirements has varied among the park units, with the exception of obviously commercial videography, such as film and commercial production. Still photography has traditionally been exempt from such federal permit requirements. 


Forest Service moves to secure water rights on Bitterroot streams

Blodgett Creek at heart of water rights dispute- Dennis Bragg photo(HAMILTON)- A move by the U.S. Forest Service to secure water rights to protect fish in Bitterroot streams is setting off new alarm bells in Ravalli County. 

The Forest Service is starting to claim water rights on the streams feeding out of the Bitterroot Mountains in a move to protect endangered species like native cutthroat and bull trout. The move is allowed under a water compact with the state approved 5-years ago.

However, filing water rights on Blodgett Creek outside Hamilton has suddenly put the issue square on the radar of Ravalli County commissioners. And Friday morning Bitterroot National Forest managers faced not only the upset commissioners, but a roomful of angry people. 

The Forest Service tried to explain the new water right would have an effective date far behind historical rights in the valley. 

"We are over a hundred years junior to every single right in Blodgett Creek. And it's non-diversionary. It never leaves the stream," explained Jed Simon of the Forest Service's Region 10 Headquarters. 

But county commissioners, along with the ranchers and property owners, disputed the agency's data being used to claim the water, accusing the agency of trying to secure water "that isn't there" on the small streams, at a time when the Bitterroot basin remains closed to further water claims.

Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor Julie King said the move is only to protect the future fisheries, pointing out that was one of the objectives of Ravalli County's recently enacted Natural Resources Policy. 

"I don't have an ulterior motive with it. This obviously started long before I got here. Honestly I don't know of any ulterior motive for this, other than for fish."

Commissioners feel the Forest Service should do more to stop fires and allow backcountry dams to be easily maintained if the objective is saving fish.

"First thing should have been the watershed. Second thing should have been to expand the water reservoir up there for the water to be able to run year 'round for the fish. I just don't like this whole process," complained Commissioner Ron Stoltz. 

"You don't get it, it appears to me, on one side without getting the responsibility on the other side to maintain that same thing that you're saying you're taking. Especially if it's more water than actually flows in the stream at any time during the year," said Commissioner J.R. Iman. 

Commissioners set a hearing for February 20th to take more public input and decide whether to formally oppose the Forest Service's application. 


Forest Service adds more tankers for fire season

One of 10 Tanker Air's DC-10 planes in action- 10 Tanker Air photo(WASHINGTON, D.C.)- The U.S. Forest Service is adding four more planes to its list of "fire bombers" available to battle a growing number of blazes across the West.

The agency announced today it had issued new "Call When Needed" contracts for three more CV-580 tankers from Canada's Interagency Forest Fire Center, as well as a DC-10 "very large air tanker". Wildfire Today reports that DC-10 carries over 11,000-gallons of retardent, making it one of the largest tankers available to fight fires. 

The planes come on top of the additional planes that were contracted last week in the aftermath of the fatal crash of a Neptune Aviation tanker in Utah and emergency landing of a Minden Air Corp Lockheed P2-V in Nevada. That makes 8-total aircraft that have been added to the dwindling fleet since the crashes over a week ago. That means there are 17 of the large, or very large tanker planes either in service, or available for call up.



Forest Service working with St. Regis mill to avoid shutdown

Tricon Timber mill in St. Regis- KPAX TV photo(ST. REGIS)- Regional managers of the U.S. Forest Service say they are in talks with the operators of a St. Regis sawmill to see if there are ways to make a contract amendment that would keep the mill in operation.

KPAX TV reported this week that Tricon Timber is uncertain about its future because of terms for a timber contract which required it to do some logging by helicopter. Company officials have said they can't afford to complete that part of the contract and have been pressing for a change for months.

U.S.F.S Region 1 spokesman Phil Sammon told KPAX on Friday the agency is working with Tricon to see if there's a way to extend the contract and keep Tricon from going under. However, he said the agency must also consider national-level timber management issues as it considers making any contract amendments.