Ground Truth: Dispatch

Forest Service Proposes Reopening Road Through Grizzly Habitat

The southern border isn’t the only place where Trump Administration proposals are stirring controversy.

Last week, officials with the Idaho Panhandle National Forests issued a draft record of decision to rebuild a long-abandoned stretch of road just south of the Canadian border for use by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. Wildlife advocates cried foul, saying the road will disrupt key grizzly bear habitat.

Officials closed Bog Creek Road, which bisects the Selkirk Mountains, in the 1980s in an effort to protect endangered grizzlies. The area also offers important habitat for Canada lynx, caribou and bull trout.

Several years ago, the Border Patrol asked the Forest Service to reopen 5.6 miles of the road. The public would not be allowed to operate motorized vehicles on the road.

In the record of decision, signed last Friday, Idaho Panhandle National Forests Supervisor Jeanne Higgins wrote that “I believe (the selected alternative) best balances the need for border security in a manner compatible with grizzly bear recovery.”

Currently, the road is blocked at both ends. The stretch that would be reopened is clogged with vegetation and is washed out in one place. The plan also calls for installing or replacing several culverts.

The Forest Service would close about 26 miles of roads elsewhere on the national forest to help lessen the impact on grizzlies. Studies have shown that more than three-quarters of grizzly bear deaths in North America result from contacts with humans.