August 30, 2021 — Advocates for the West initiated a new action against the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the “Sage Hen Integrated Restoration Project” in the West Mountains in West-Central Idaho.
When it approved the Sage Hen Project in April 2021, the Forest Service authorized constructing over 80 miles of roads and commercially harvesting timber on 18,000 acres over the next twenty years on public lands in Gem and Valley Counties, Idaho. The project area, which is in the Boise National Forest, includes parts of the Snowbank Inventoried Roadless Area and includes the entire Upper Squaw Creek watershed. The project area is home to bull trout, rare plants, and sensitive species of wildlife.
The bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus), which is listed as a “threatened” species under the Endangered Species Act, faces dire conditions in the Sage Hen Project area. Bull trout populations in the Squaw Creek watershed are at “high risk,” and two of the four local bull trout populations in the core area are believed to have recently been extirpated. Climate change is projected to hit bull trout in the Squaw Creek watershed particularly hard, with projections showing suitable habitat will be “greatly reduced” by 2040. By downplaying and failing to protect against the project’s likely effects, the Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service are placing Squaw Creek bull trout at extreme risk.