A win for grizzly on the Lolo National Forest
Below picture courtesy of USFWS
On October 5, 2021, Judge Christensen of the U.S. District Court of Montana issued an Order reversing the Forest Service’s approval of the Soldier-Butler timber sale project in the Ninemile Ranger District of the Lolo National Forest. Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Flathead-Lolo-Bitterroot Citizen Task Force brought suit because the logging project would violate the law. Among violations of law the court noted were the failure of the Forest Service to consider the impacts on grizzly bears stemming from two factors: the discovery of 137 miles of previously uninventoried roads existing on national forest lands, and a decision to renege on its commitment to decommission 37 miles of road under a previous timber sale decision. Because of those circumstances, the Court ruled the Forest Service must reconsult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This is a step the Forest Service must always take when its proposals would harm habitat for terrestrial species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Check out the Task Force’s guest opinion piece in the Montana Standard.
Map below courtesy of Flathead-Lolo-Bitterroot Citizen Task Force,
Map created by Paul Sieracki
This case has important implications for the Clearwater Country. The Soldier-Butler timber sale proposal is located in a Demographic Connectivity Area (DCA), set up under the grizzly bear Conservation Strategy for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (Recovery Zone) to help facilitate grizzly bear migration into the Bitterroot Ecosystem (BE). Because of existing high road densities in the DCA and the negative human impacts so many roads pose for grizzly bears, conditions are presently not very favorable for movement through and survival in this DCA. The Forest Service wanted to ignore the impacts of these roads, and the Court essentially said no—this threatens a violation of the ESA.
Friends of the Clearwater is raising similar concerns in our legal challenge of the huge Hungry Ridge and End of the World timber sales on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, in the Salmon-Clearwater Divide area in the Salmon River Ranger District. Here, the Forest Service’s position is that even though this is historic grizzly bear habitat, and recent occurrences of grizzly bears in or around these project areas have been documented, large-scale industrial timber extraction will have no impact whatsoever on grizzly bears attempting to recover their populations in the BE.
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