Proposed wilderness in Colville forest much reduced

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Environmental groups are upset that a deal that would have more than quadrupled the amount of protected wilderness in eastern Washington state has unraveled.

The Spokesman-Review reports that the Colville National Forest released its draft management plan in September.

To the surprise of conservation groups and one of the area’s largest timber producers, the draft said only about 60,000 acres of the Colville National Forest will be designated as wilderness.

A coalition of environmental, industrial and recreation interests had originally proposed more than 200,000 acres of new wilderness.

But county commissioners from Pend Oreille, Stevens and Ferry counties do not support increasing the recommended wilderness area. Nor does the cattle industry.

The Forest Service cited that opposition as a reason for reducing the amount of proposed wilderness.