SEATTLE — The Native American tribe that has blocked a narrow highway running through the central Idaho wilderness in order to stall a load carrying equipment to the tar sands in Canada has announced they have turned to a different tactic: a lawsuit.
The Nez Perce tribe announced that it had a filed suit demanding that federal wildlife officials halt the so-called megaload — reportedly stretching over 200 feet and weighing about 644,000 pounds — and prevent others like it.
Since Monday, members of the tribe have stood on Highway 12 each night to form a blockade as the shipment tried to move through. At least 20 people have been arrested, according to local authorities.
Tribal officials said they decided to file the lawsuit — in conjunction with the group Idaho Rivers United — after they believed they had "been left with no other option."
"The tribe has exhausted all avenues of diplomacy and outreach to elevate this issue so that it was properly addressed by the United States but we received no redress," Silas Whitman, chairman of the Nez Perce executive tribal committee, said in a prepared statement.
He added that the area the load was passing through — "our homeland," he said — "is vitally important to the economy, culture, history and spirit of the Nez Perce people." The tribe's intent is to "prevent the transformation of a resource-rich area into an industrial high-and-wide corridor."
The U.S. Forest Service did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
The carrier of the megaload, Oregon-based Omega Morgan, declined to comment Friday. A company spokeswoman said the company hadn't received the suit.