Homeland security orders opening of long-closed road in Idaho

Homeland security orders opening of long-closed road in Idaho

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A road closed in the late 1980s to protect endangered grizzly bears will be reopened for security reasons. The road, which snakes through the Selkirk Mountains in Idaho, runs between Upper Priest Lake and the Canadian border. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security ordered the U.S. Forest Service to re-open the long-abandoned 5.6 miles of Bog Creek Road because of “legitimate threats to border security,” The Spokesman-Review reports.

While the road, which is located in Boundary County, will not be open to the public and only “available for administrative use to allow” border patrol officers “to meet their statutory mission,” the Forest Service plans to begin repairing the road riddled with alders and other vegetation. This work includes the installation of six new culverts and replacement of six of the 67 corrugated metal pipe culverts as well as trimming trees and brush so they do not block the road, according to The Spokesman-Review.

However, not everyone is happy with this decision and the Idaho Conservation League (ICL) has threatened legal action to stop it. 

“This project will reduce the amount of habitat available in the most important grizzly bear management unit in the Selkirk Recovery Zone,” said Brad Smith, ICL’s North Idaho director. 

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Smith added that the Forest Service did close a “number of administratively used roads” in order to “meet grizzly bear recovery standards,” but that those specific roads do not actually matter to grizzly bears.

“The Forest Service and the Border Patrol had an opportunity to close other roads and mitigate the impact on grizzly bears,” Smith said in an email. “Unfortunately, the agencies chose to ‘close’ roads that are either already undrivable or will provide little or no habitat value to bears.”

Back in 2016, former biologists with the Forest Service objected to reopening the road, explaining that “the interests of wildlife, wild areas and border security are best served by not opening the Bog Creek Road” and to open it would be a violation of the Endangered Species Act. 

“Even the government’s own analysis shows that this project will harm federally protected grizzly bears for years after the project begins,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We are currently considering our options, which may include a lawsuit to prevent the harm that this project would cause to Idaho’s wildlife.”

Yet, Border Patrol said that “no particular incident prompted the request to reopen the road,” according to The Spokesman-Review, and that they had no plans of using the road during the winter. Further, agents wouldn’t “be going ‘back and forth on it.’” The current Border Patrol station is at Metaline Falls, Washington. Agents at that station are in charge of patrolling east of Bog Creek Road.

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