leared campground 

If you plan to camp at the Jerry Johnson Campground this summer, bring some extra ice for the cooler. Shade will be scarce now that the Forest Service has removed over 700 tress from the site. Just west of the bridge leading to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs, on Highway 12, solid vistas of well-watered trees yield to a patch of barren ground, pocked with picnic tables once tucked into the lush forest.

The move has angered several Idaho conservation groups, including Friends of the Clearwater.

“There’s no question, it’s basically been clearcut,” said Larry McLaud, program director for the Friends.

The Forest Service, operating out of Powell Ranger District, revamped the campground after identifying root disease that could fell trees on campers.

“It was my decision to remove all of the trees and convert the tree species,” Powell District Ranger Joni Packard said. “It’s a decision for the future, even though I know it hits people hard.”

Packard said the next 10 to 15 years will look “rough,” but with the planting of larch and white pine, which are more root-rot resistant than the grand fir previously at the campground, the site should again flourish. Packard also said that if the trees weren’t cut, they would eventually fall, and in years to come the site would look similar to its current condition anyway.

Retired forestry professor Dr. Art Partridge, who studied root disease for 37 years at the University of Idaho in Moscow, disputes the root disease charge.

“There was some root disease present, but we didn’t find any active root disease,” Partridge said.

The difference is that root disease can be present in dead roots, like the taproot, one of the first of a tree’s roots to die. But there was no decay in the living roots, Partridge said, who studied the stumps left behind.

“There was no evidence that those trees would fall,” Partridge said.

Packard said that the Forest Service feels “confident and comfortable” with its findings.

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