Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest, Idaho Dead Laundry


Along Road 737-J in Dead Laundry project area. Photo credit: Kate Bilodeau

Why this forest is special

At more than 4 million acres, the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest — also called Wild Clearwater Country — in north-central Idaho is known for its wildness. The Clearwater National Forest is the southernmost part of one of world’s largest inland rainforests, stretching up the continent into Canada. With rain comes growth, and with growth, carbon storage. The Clearwater National Forest has some has some of the best carbon storage potential east of the Cascades.

Dead Laundry Project

The project proposes logging 3,838 acres of trees with commercial “regeneration harvest,” meaning clearcuts and variations of clearcuts, many greater than 40 acres — larger than 40 football fields. Logging will include cutting trees more than 20 inches in diameter and cutting mature trees in designated old-growth stands. Much of the mature forest logging will occur in unfragmented roadless areas. The Forest Service plans to build or “reconstruct” more than 200 miles of roads in this remote area, including bulldozing logging roads through old-growth stands.

Carbon storage and biodiversity

Dead Laundry targets mature and old-growth trees for logging, reducing these significant carbon stores. Proposed logging would eliminate or degrade habitat in a remote area that provides wildlife connectivity among three different unfragmented roadless areas. This area is home to dozens of species, including threatened Pacific fishers and bull trout (both protected under the Endangered Species Act), Kokanee salmon, black bears, elk, wolverines, moose and American martens. Grizzly bears, who need remote country with few roads, are venturing back into Wild Clearwater Country.

Why these trees should remain standing

This sale is about commodity timber production that will release decades of stored forest carbon and harm wildlife habitat. The Forest Service claims the project is needed to produce timber, “enhance” old growth, and improve forest health and resilience, but cutting the largest and oldest trees will destroy some of the forest’s rarest and most valuable ecological components. The area must be evaluated for old-growth potential, and the mature trees must be protected.

The future of mature and old-growth trees in Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest

The Forest Service has been operating under a 35-year-old forest plan aimed at industrial timber production. This plan calls for only about 10% of the forest to be old growth, while targeting mature forests for logging and conversion into even-age plantations that tend to burn more severely. A new forest plan is being drafted that would more than triple the amount of logging to 150 million board feet per year. To achieve these unsustainable levels, the new forest plan would do away with measurable and enforceable standards for mature and old-growth trees, water quality and sediment levels, wildlife habitat, riparian areas and fish habitat.

Project status

The Forest Service is seeking a waiver to clearcut areas larger than 40 acres. The Forest Service is expected to obtain the waiver and approve the project in 2023.

Local contact: Katie Bilodeau, Friends of the Clearwater katie@friendsoftheclearwater.org

The Worth More Standing report spotlights federal forest-management practices that are liquidating mature and old-growth forests and trees every day. It includes 10 examples that are part of a pervasive pattern of federal forest mismanagement that routinely sidesteps science to turn carbon-storing giants into lumber. Learn what actions you can take to protect Climate Forests across the country.