Army Corps of Engineers Halts Highway 95 Construction near Moscow
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suspended its authorization of the U.S. Highway 95 Thorn Creek Road to Moscow rerouting project, in a letter sent to the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) dated August 29, 2022. Section 404 of the Clean Water Act requires an Army Corps permit for the realignment, because it would destroy wetlands along a six-mile stretch of Highway 95 proposed for expansion to four lanes, south of Moscow.
On March 9, 2021, the Corps granted ITD a Nationwide Permit 14 (NWP 14), a general, national permit for wetland impacts under the Clean Water Act, which applies to transportation projects that would destroy no more than a half-acre of wetlands at any one site. The Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC) hired two experienced wetland scientists to determine the accuracy of the wetland acreage that would be impacted by the easternmost E-2 alignment of U.S. 95 preferred by ITD. PRDC’s contracted scientists determined that ITD omitted wetlands that would be destroyed at Site 1 on the southern end of the E-2 route. Considering those wetlands, the E-2 alignment exceeds the half-acre limit of maximum wetland destruction. As a result, the overall project does not qualify for a Nationwide Permit 14.
The Corps has now suspended all ITD project construction for 60 days or longer, at Site 1 and all 13 wetland crossings along the E-2 alignment. In the attached letter to ITD, Kelly Urbanek, Regulatory Division Chief of the Army Corps in Boise, wrote, “It is unclear what type of Department of Army authorization will be required to construct ITD’s proposed (or any revised) highway improvement plan at Site 1. For example, if expected losses to aquatic resources at Site 1 exceed 0.5 acre and cannot be authorized under NWP 14, an individual permit may be required. …Effective immediately, you must stop all activities… This suspension will remain in effect until the authorization is reinstated, modified, or revoked.”
In response, PRDC board member David Hall said, “This decision by the Army Corps should encourage ITD and the Corps to compare alignments and choose the least environmentally damaging alternative for this new highway section. Public comments overwhelmingly support the central C-3 route and the stricter standards and public involvement of an individual, rather than a nationwide, Clean Water Act permit.”
Helen Yost of regional, climate activist collective Wild Idaho Rising Tide added, “Considering E-2’s higher elevation weather conditions, wildlife crossings, larger wetlands, and proximity to rare, native, Palouse Prairie remnants, the lower C-3 alignment is safer for drivers and healthier for the environment than E-2, and best utilizes current U.S. 95 infrastructure, as recommended by federal regulations.”
Spokesperson for the Palouse Group of the Sierra Club, Al Poplawsky, stated, “ITD knew they were building a highway on a house of cards. Environmental laws benefit all living things, including people, and not following them is ultimately damaging and counterproductive.”
Zachary Griefen of Bricklin and Newman, legal counsel for PRDC, noted that, “We are pleased that the Army Corps has acknowledged, as PRDC has argued all along, that ITD misrepresented the extent to which the proposed route will destroy wetlands. The Corps’ suspension of authorization for the project is a good first step toward reconsideration of this ill-conceived highway project.”
The Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition of Moscow, Idaho, is a non-profit, public interest organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of Paradise Ridge and the native biodiversity of the Palouse region that surrounds Paradise Ridge. With a mission to ensure and enhance the public safety, environmental integrity, and natural aesthetics of Paradise Ridge and its environs, the coalition includes the Palouse Broadband of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness, the Palouse Group of the Sierra Club, Wild Idaho Rising Tide, and individual members.
Friday, February 21, Wet’suwet’en Solidarity Actions Supporting Indigenous Rights
Sandpoint, Idaho (Kalispel Territory): 12 pm on the?southwest corner of North Third Avenue and Oak Street, across from the Farmin Park clock, with the weekly, 350Sandpoint Climate Strike
Spokane, Washington (Spokane Territory): 3 pm at the park on the southeast corner of North Division Street and East Martin Luther King, Jr. Way
Moscow, Idaho (Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) Territory): 5:30 pm at Friendship Square on the west side of South Main Street at West Fourth Street, with the weekly, Palouse Peace Coalition demonstration
Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), #No2ndBridge, and regional, climate activists are hosting demonstrations in Spokane, Washington, and Moscow and Sandpoint, Idaho, on Friday, February 21, in solidarity with five Wet’suwet’en Nation clans in west central British Columbia (B.C.) defending their sovereignty from Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) invasions imposing TC Energy (formerly TransCanada) construction of the Coastal GasLink (CGL) fracked gas pipeline from northeastern B.C., across unceded, Wet’suwet’en territories, to an unbuilt, liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Kitimat, B.C. The clans’ hereditary chiefs have not provided their free, prior, and informed consent, as required by law, and have unanimously opposed the pipeline and police occupations. They closed the Morice West Road into their lands and on January 4, evicted CGL from their territories, where it was building housing for 400-plus workers.
Amid rising tensions, RCMP attempted to enforce a December 2019, B.C. Supreme Court injunction that seeks to block Wet’suwet’en people from their traditional lands, by establishing an exclusion zone that eases CGL access to pipeline sites. On February 6 to 10, militarized police with rifles, dogs, vehicles, and helicopters staged multiple raids of two Gidimt’en clan camps and checkpoints along the road, and the Unist’ot’en clan’s healing center beyond the gated, Morice River bridge. At gunpoint, they detained journalists, arrested and removed 28 tribal members and supporters, some while in ceremony, towed resident vehicles, and dismantled camps, sacred fires, and dozens of red dresses strung along the road to symbolize the missing and murdered, indigenous women and girls victimized by transient, pipeline “man camps.”
Denouncing Canada’s failed reconciliation processes with First Nations, indigenous and allied, frontline activists across Canada and around the Earth have sustained scores of protests, marching, rallying, and blockading at government offices and buildings, city streets and highways, and ports and train tracks. Canadian and western Washington sabotage and blockades of relatively indefensible rail lines connecting ports, refineries, and passenger and freight traffic have caused major railroad networks to cancel services, discouraged investments in energy projects, and disrupted business-as-usual, national economies.
Inland Northwest solidarity actions support Wet’suwet’en rights and title to their lands and waters and increasing, worldwide opposition to fossil fuels extraction, transportation, infrastructure, and pollution risks and impacts to public and environmental health and safety, which privatize public police and officials and criminalize land, water, and climate protectors. Protest organizers encourage participants to learn more about Wet’suwet’en resistance to colonization, contact Canadian politicians to demand that they stop police violence, donate toward the Wet’suwet’en legal fund, and attend a demonstration in Moscow, Sandpoint, and Spokane on Friday, February 21. For further issue and event information and ideas for relevant signs and banners, please see Wet’suwet’en supporter toolkits [1, 2], the international solidarity actions page , WIRT website and facebook event posts [4, 5], and the attached flyer. Dress for winter warmth and dryness, bring friends, family, and creative signs, assist with carpools to these community events, and contact WIRT with your questions and suggestions.
February 1, 10 am rally & carpool at Sandpoint City Beach Park, & 11 am march from Bonners Ferry Visitors Center
Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), #No2ndBridge, and regional climate activists are hosting a Fossil Fuels Train Pollution Protest in Bonner and Boundary counties on Saturday, February 1. Participants are gathering at 10 am around the City Beach Park pavilion in Sandpoint, Idaho, for a brief, information sharing rally. Carpoolers are next traveling to the Gateway Visitors Center in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, to march at 11 am and return to Sandpoint by 1 pm.
This community event commemorates the one-month anniversary of the January 1, rockslide derailment and January 26 removal and current disassembly of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway, mixed freight train locomotive that submerged and leaked at least 2,100 gallons of diesel fuel and engine oil into the Kootenai River near Moyie Springs, north Idaho. Resistance to ongoing, coal, oil, and hazardous materials train pollution and derailment risks and impacts to public and environmental health and safety is increasing across the Idaho Panhandle. Rural, rail corridor residents continue to oppose bridge, track, and operations expansions that compound these threats, such as BNSF’s inherently perilous, present and proposed, fossil fuels pipelines-on-rails across north Idaho, along the Kootenai River, and almost one mile over Lake Pend Oreille.
After dozens of derailments along waterways and deadly and injurious railroad collisions in north Idaho and western Montana during the last decade, frontline activists are demanding that multiple government agencies provide to the public and enforce several measures, to prevent and remediate the ecosystem and economic devastation imposed on rural communities by the Kootenai River wreck and similar disasters. Through comment letters, they are requesting derailment oil spill information, independent water quality and environmental monitoring, protection of native and endangered fish and wildlife, a Federal Railroad Administration incident investigation and penalties, and railroad operation revisions and locomotive recovery plans.
Protest organizers ask that participants dress for winter warmth and dryness, bring friends, family, and creative, relevant signs and banners, assist with event transportation, and sign the Petition to Deny and Revoke Permits for the BNSF Sandpoint Junction Connector Project . Contact WIRT for further event and emerging issue information, also described through the linked event flyer and announcements  and compiled photos and updates  on WIRT facebook and website pages.
 Petition to Deny and Revoke Permits for the BNSF Sandpoint Junction Connector Project
Guardian– Revealed: how the FBI targeted environmental activists in domestic terror investigations
Protesters were characterized as a threat to national security in what one calls an attempt to criminalize their actions
Helen Yost, a 62-year-old environmental educator, has been a committed activist for nearly a decade. She says she spends 60 to 80 hours a week as a community organizer for Wild Idaho Rising Tide. She’s been arrested twice for engaging in non-violent civil disobedience.
Yost may not fit the profile of a domestic terrorist, but in 2014 the FBI classified her as a potential threat to national security. According to hundreds of pages of FBI files obtained by the Guardian through a Freedom of Information Act (Foia) lawsuit, and interviews with activists, Yost and more than a dozen other people campaigning against fossil fuel extraction in North America have been identified in domestic terrorism-related investigations.
The investigations, which targeted individual activists and some environmental organizations, were opened in 2013-2014, at the height of opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline and the expansion of fossil fuel production in North America.
The new Foia documents reveal the bureau’s motivation for investigating a broad cross-section of the environmental movement and its characterization of non-violent protesters as a potential threat to national security.
In 2010, the DoJ’s inspector general criticized the FBI for using non-violent civil disobedience as grounds to open domestic terrorism investigations. US citizens swept up in such investigations can be placed on terrorism watchlists and subjected to surveillance and restrictions on international travel. The designation can also lead local law enforcement to take a more confrontational approach when engaging with non-violent activists.
The FBI’s 2013-2014 investigation of Keystone XL activists in Houston violated internal agency guidelines designed to prevent the bureau from infringing on constitutionally protected activities. The investigations opened in 2013-2014 were closed after the FBI concluded that the individuals and organizations had not engaged in criminal activity and did not a pose a threat to national security.
But those decisions have been reversed in recent years. Donald Trump has approved construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, and his administration has also advocated for stiffer penalties against activists who engage in non-violent direct action targeting fossil fuel infrastructure. Meanwhile, in the wake of the Standing Rock protests, seven states have passed legislation making it a crime to trespass on property containing critical infrastructure.
In its July 2014 file on Yost, the FBI cited federal anti-terrorism legislation prohibiting “attacks and other violence against railroad carriers” as the primary justification for opening the investigation. Violation of the law can lead to up to 20 years in prison. Activists who engage in non-violent civil disobedience and are charged with minor offenses such as trespassing are typically released within 48 hours.
The FBI characterized Yost as being driven by a “desire to stop fossil fuels which, in her political view, are destroying parts of the US, specifically Montana, Idaho and Washington”. In addition, the FBI discussed the case with the US attorney’s office in Idaho, local law enforcement, and BNSF Railway, which operates the main rail line delivering coal and oil to export terminals in the Pacific north-west.
According to the FBI file, the bureau opened the investigation based on information that Yost “was organizing and planning on conducting illegal activities against railroad companies from Montana into Idaho and Washington”.
Yost said Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) never organized direct action protests to disrupt oil train traffic passing in the region. The heavily redacted Yost investigation concludes that “no potential criminal violations or priority threats to national security warranting further investigation were identified”.
WIRT did participate in a series of community-led events and workshops in July and August 2014 opposing the transport of oil and coal by rail. “Investigators may have conflated several community events to assume such fictitious allegations,” Yost said in an email.
For several years, WIRT, founded in 2011, had been publicizing its actions on the organization’s Facebook page. Much of its activity had focused on stopping the passage of huge trucks known as megaloads, which transport processing equipment to tar sands oil fields in Canada and weigh hundreds of thousands of pounds, along one of Idaho’s scenic byways.
The campaign involved posting public records on the megaload routes, tracking their progress, and at times blockading their movement.
Yost was also active in protesting against the shipment of coal and oil by rail to export terminals in Seattle. In the summer of 2014, WIRT, along with several other environmental organizations and native groups across the Pacific north-west, sponsored a series of rallies and workshops in the region.
Those protests were peaceful – a handful of activists in Montana including the environmental writer Rick Bass were arrested for trespassing – and in the end the FBI concluded that Yost did not pose a threat to national security. Several months later the investigation was closed.
However, in the file closing the case, it appears that Yost has been watchlisted, which is standard for named subjects of FBI domestic terrorism investigations, according to Mike German, a former FBI agent who is now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice. Being watchlisted can lead to heightened scrutiny from law enforcement and delays or additional screenings when traveling. Yost said she had not traveled overseas since the FBI investigation.
Yost, who was contacted by an FBI agent when the case was still active, said she was not surprised by the agency’s actions. Surveillance was a form of suppression, she said, and this was another attempt to criminalize the actions of “normal people” working to protect natural resources. But she remains undeterred.
“Assume they know the color of your underwear every morning and get up and resist anyway,” Yost said.
Herb Goodwin, a 70-year-old activist, has a similar philosophy. “We’re all under surveillance,” Goodwin said. “If they want to look at your stuff, they’re going to.”
In 2013-2014 Goodwin frequently participated in actions organized by Yost and WIRT. He was also part of the Occupy Wall Street protests in Bellingham, Washington, in 2011 and was one of 12 individuals arrested that year for blockading a BNSF coal train passing through the city. They became known as the Bellingham 12.
Goodwin was one of at least a dozen environmental activists, many of them affiliated with the group Deep Green Resistance, contacted by FBI agents in autumn 2014. In early October that year, not long after Goodwin returned from a megaload resistance campaign in Idaho, an FBI agent and a police intelligence officer showed up at his residence. According to Goodwin, they wanted to ask him questions about the environmental group Deep Green Resistance. Goodwin refused to cooperate and referred the agents to his lawyer, who himself became a subject of interest to the FBI.
Founded in 2011 Deep Green Resistance (DGR), based on the principles laid out in the book of the same name, describes itself as a radical organization that “uses direct action in the fight to save the planet”. Though the group supports underground movements, its members abide by a code of conduct that includes a commitment to nonviolence and operating entirely above-ground. According to the group’s website, “We do not want to be involved in or aware of any underground organizing.” In another FBI interview with a DGR member documented in the files, the activist even invited the agents to attend one of DGR’s presentations.
FBI files show that the bureau initiated the two-year investigation into DGR to determine if the group or any of its members were planning to engage in the destruction of energy facilities or attacks against railroad companies, referring to the same federal statute cited in the Yost investigation.
But the FBI also took an interest in constitutionally protected activities, including DGR members’ participation in public meetings and lectures and the group’s early organizing efforts.
Even though the FBI investigation found no evidence that DGR was planning to engage in violent activity, it often portrayed the group as an extremist organization. One individual contacted numerous times by the FBI was said to have been a “suspected member of the Deep Green Resistance’s extremist wing” and a participant in DGR’s “Midwest extremist planning process”. DGR did have a strategic planning conference in Wisconsin in spring 2012 which they said was attended by about 30 people, but it was publicly advertised and focused on building the organization, fundraising and leadership training.
The FBI also focused its attention on DGR organizing at Western Washington University, which hosted a lecture in 2011 by two of the group’s members, Max Wilbert and Dillon Thomson. Information about the lecture, titled Environmentalism for the New Century, and about the professor who hosted it was included in the FBI files. Wilbert, who attended WWU, is also a member of DGR’s board of directors.
As part of the investigation, the FBI met with the university’s police department to “discuss possible Deep Green Resistance presence on the WWU campus”. The FBI also said it would attempt to determine whether any of the professors in the environmental sciences department were involved in the “DGR movement”.
The sweeping investigation into DGR’s activities was formally closed in 2014 but Wilbert assumes that the group is still being closely watched. Wilbert, who is also a writer and photographer, frequently posts short polemical essays on his Facebook page or the Deep Green Resistance website.
Wilbert said that on 7 September 2018, nearly four years after the investigation was closed, he got a call from an FBI agent in Seattle informing him that the bureau had received an anonymous tip regarding something he had written online. The agent also left a card at Wilbert’s parents’ home.
“I’m pretty outspoken about being a revolutionary, somebody who believes in the necessity for revolutionary change,” Wilbert said. “It’s not something I hide.”
An FBI file documenting the online tip describes Wilbert as “an environmental extremist” involved in “inciting violence in Seattle”.
German, the former FBI agent, whose recent book, Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide, chronicles the troubling post-9/11 expansion of the FBI’s domestic surveillance powers, said the agency had failed to heed the warnings laid out in a 2010 justice department IG investigation that criticized the FBI’s targeting of certain domestic advocacy groups. According to German, the Yost files and the two-year DGR investigation show how “ineffective these internal oversight mechanisms are to preventing abusive and wasteful investigations of non-violent protesters”.