Bears factor in opening road

BONNERS FERRY — To better secure the border, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is working with the U.S. Forest Service to open Bog Creek Road.

Opening the 5.6 mile road would allow Border Patrol agents to access the area in two hours instead of eight hours via Priest Lake, said Barry Woelfel, public lands liaison agent for the Spokane Sector Border Patrol in an email.

Bog Creek Road runs within a mile of the U.S./Canada border and traverses the Selkirk Mountains near Continental Mountain.

“Additionally, agents can more effectively and efficiently conduct patrol activities because Bog Creek Road reduces the current travel time and expenditure of resources,” said Woelfel.

“More importantly, this motorized access will augment officer safety, not only for Border Patrol agents but for other law enforcement whose duties require them to operate in the area,” he said.

Bog Creek Road was closed because two big slide areas made the area difficult to keep open and maintenance expensive, said Mary Farnsworth, supervisor for Idaho Panhandle National Forest.

“The proposed project would include the removal of alder trees, culvert replacement, grading and a small amount of possible resurfacing,” said Woelfel. “The road will not be widened but minimum width requirements need to be met in some areas, requiring cut and fill work.”

“Reconstruction would be for administrative use,” said Farnsworth. “It would not be open to the public.”

“Any project will go through a full NEPA process,” said Farnsworth. NEPA discloses environmental effects, identifies alternatives, develops an environmental impact statement and determines whether the project has a significant effect or not.

There will also be public open houses to inform and comment, Farnsworth said.

Funding for the NEPA, repair and maintenance of the Bog Creek project would come from the U.S. Border Patrol.

Bog Creek Road is located in the Selkirk Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone within the Blue-Grass Bear Management Unit. The road is currently classified as a seasonally restricted road, administrative use request required, which allows for a maximum of 57 trips per year under the grizzly bear access amendment.

If the Forest Service opens a road under the access amendment, then they have to look at road access elsewhere to maintain open road densities said Farnsworth.

“The most significant challenge involves determining the best way to proceed jointly in repairing and maintaining Bog Creek Road; along with negotiating the extent of mitigation required by the Forest Service,” said Woelfel.

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