Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Fight over remote Idaho airstrip underscores tough balancing act - video

Two groups that have never liked airfields in Idaho wilderness areas are seeking to stop the expansion of the Fish Lake Airstrip in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. But instead of trying to use the 50-year-old Wilderness Act - which bans buildings and motors, but allows some historic uses - Wilderness Watch and Friends of the Clearwater are tapping the National Environmental Policy Act and the far stronger powers of the Endangered Species Act to keep the U.S. Forest Service from lengthening the strip from 2,745 feet to 3,000 feet. The Fish Lake strip is legendary among backcountry fliers. The swirling winds in the canyon make it essentially a one-way strip, which means a pilot has to wait for the right conditions to take off. Pilots say the strip's grassy runway is soggy until July and has wallows and an uneven surface. The Forest Service has kept it open with patchwork repairs, but says it needs a major overhaul. For Friends of the Clearwater, the concern is the potential impacts to threatened bull trout and Canada lynx. The two groups filed a 60-day notice of their intent to sue because the Forest Service plans to avoid conducting a full environmental-impact statement. Pilots want to continue a largely nonconforming use they successfully protected when the Selway-Bitterroot was made a wilderness. Preservationists would prefer to see the strip closed. The Forest Service proposed expanding the strip and began its environmental review process by putting the proposal before the public to gauge reactions. That step triggered the 60-day notice. The agency now has to decide whether to endure a lawsuit, spend the money to do a full environmental-impact analysis or keep patching...more 

Do you want access to hunt and fish?  Then oppose Wilderness. 

See what its like to land at Fish Lake in this 3 minute video:

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