Marking at least a temporary victory for the Nez Perce Tribe and environmental activists, a federal judge on Friday halted shipments of giant tar sands equipment dubbed 'megaloads' that pass through a national forest in Idaho.
The ruling is a continuation of a three-year battle to protect "a scenic Idaho roadway that cuts through the homeland of the Nez Perce Tribe and runs alongside two federally protected rivers," Reuters reports.
“This is a win for all who cherish the esthetic, spiritual and recreational values of the Lochsa and Clearwater Rivers,” Kevin Lewis, Conservation Director of Idaho Rivers United, which filed the lawsuit along with the Nez Perce to stop the shipments, said in a statement.
The equipment supplier is a subsidiary of General Electric, which filed as co-defendent along with the Forest Service.
The loads of equipment are over 250 feet long and weigh over 640,000 pounds.
“To allow a shipment with that potential to proceed before consulting with the Tribe is likely an abdication of statutory responsibilities,” Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill of Federal District Court in Boise wrote in his preliminary injunction order.
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Nez Perce members “are not seeking damages; they are seeking to preserve their Treaty rights along with cultural and intrinsic values that have no price tag,” he continued.
In August, roughly 50 protesters from the Nez Perce tribe, Idle No More, Wild Idaho Rising Tide and other environmental groups brought a megaload to a halt as it attempted to make its way down Idaho's Highway 12 to the Alberta tar sands fields.
One of the 19 people arrested in the action was Tribal Council member and Vice-Chair of the Nez Perce Nation, Brooklyn Baptiste, who said,
As leaders, elected or not, we need to be able to meet our ancestors in the spirit world and hold our heads up strong and answer them when they ask if we did all we could do to protect the people and the land. This is about our inherent sovereignty. We are sovereign because of this land, this water, the animals. What is sovereignty without them? We’re all waking up.
“River managers across the United States are watching this decision, which is a clear win for all the Wild and Scenic Rivers of America,” IRU Executive Director Bill Sedivy said. “This ruling shows that the oil industry and the world’s largest corporations can’t run roughshod over the Tribe, the people of Idaho or our nations’ most precious natural assets.”