BOISE, Idaho -

A federal judge appeared sympathetic to an environmental group's contention that the U.S. Forest Service can intervene to protect U.S. Highway 12's scenic characteristics from impacts of giant oil-equipment shipments.
    
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill told lawyers for Idaho Rivers United and the Forest Service Wednesday he'll issue a decision quickly, likely by week's end.
    
Idaho Rivers United argues the Forest Service should have intervened in 2011 when the Idaho Transportation Department allowed ExxonMobil to haul loads between Lewiston and the Kearl Oil Sands projects in southern Alberta.
    
Meanwhile, a Forest Service lawyer argues the case should be dismissed, in large part because the ExxonMobil loads have been completed via alternate routes.
    
Even so, the Idaho Transportation Department continues to issue permits for so-called "megaloads," as recently as last month.