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Idaho's Mega-Embarrassment

Clearwater/Lochsa listed as the "10th most endangered river in the U.S.,"

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Among the flurry of top-10 lists, which trumpet Idaho for its scenic wonders and livability, the Gem State has unceremoniously been dumped into a list of select states that are home to America's Most Endangered Rivers of 2014.

On April 9, American Rivers, which boasts 200,000 members and volunteers in its crusade to protect or restore wild rivers, published its annual report listing rivers "at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers' fates."

In particular, the just-published report points to Idaho's Middle Fork of the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers as the "10th most endangered river in the U.S.," primarily due to what it calls the "industrialization" of its Wild and Scenic River Corridor.

Boise Weekly readers know all-too-well the saga of U.S. Highway 12, one of the most scenic byways on the continent as it curls alongside the canyons of the Clearwater and Lochsa. But mega-loads--massive shipments of equipment destined for the Tar Sands Oil Project in Alberta Canada--have defined U.S. 12 since 2010, when ExxonMobil first unveiled its plans to use the Wild and Scenic Corridor as a regular thoroughfare for its rigs (BW, News, "Taking the Scenic Route," July 7, 2010). The debate raged for the better part of three years until the issue ended up in a Boise federal courtroom, where U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill affirmed the U.S. Forest Service's accountability to protect the corridor.

But that still didn't stop the Idaho Transportation Department from granting permits to allow mega-loads to continue crawling along U.S. 12, triggering a string of protests and arrests.

The new report from American Rivers chides the U.S. Forest Service for not taking a "leadership role" in protecting the Wild and Scenic River Corridor by "banning further shipment of megaloads along U.S. 12."

Through its advocacy, American Rivers says it has helped protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of the nation's wild rivers. The "America's Most Endangered Rivers Report" has helped spur many successes to date, including the removal of outdated dams, the prevention of harmful development and pollution and the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations.