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Nez Perce Attempt to Halt Oil Sands Shipment

The national debate over oil development took an unusual turn on an Idaho highway early Tuesday morning when members of the NezPerce Tribe blocked the passage of a giant water evaporator headed for the oil sands of Alberta, Canada for two hours.

More than a hundred members of the NezPerce Tribe and environmental activists stretched across the highway at the border of the tribe's reservation. They attempted to stop a 255-foot long, two-lane-wide shipment they say is illegal.

Oregon-based shipper Omega Morgan decided to move the so-called “megaload” through a protected area of Idaho over objections from the U.S. Forest Service.

“I don't look at this as a symbolic issue,” said Silas Whitman, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribe. “Otherwise, we'd just issue a press statement, put up a few signs and just let it go. No, we've run out of time and initiatives. So that leaves us with disobedience, civil disobedience.”

Whitman was among more than a dozen people arrested overnight.

The megaload is scheduled to travel across Nez Perce ancestral land and a Wild and Scenic Corridor in the coming days.

The Nez Perce Tribe plans to ask for an injunction from a federal judge this week.

Inland Northwest Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covers the economic, demographic and environmental trends that are shaping places east of the Cascades.