Environmental groups sue over MT logging project / Public News Service

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The Wild Rockies Alliance has sued the U.S. Forest Service over a logging project in southwestern Montana.

The group alleges that government agencies have not conducted necessary environmental impact studies.

The project calls for cutting 11 miles of roads into areas adjacent to the Anaconda-Pintler Preserve to allow loggers to harvest nearly 11,000 acres of timber.

Wild Rockies Alliance Executive Director Mike Garrity said the project threatens the lynx’s primary habitat now and for future generations.

“And the lynx is listed as ‘endangered’ under the Endangered Species Act,” Garrity said. “Lynx avoid clear-cutting for up to 50 years, and they also avoid roads.”

The edges of the Anaconda-Pintler River are also prime habitat for grizzly bears, who also avoid clear-cutting and are most often killed near logging roads.

The Forest Service claims that forest management through thinning helps reduce the risk of wildfires. The case is awaiting trial in federal court in Missoula.

Mr. Garrity argued that the Forest Service violated federal law, which requires a thorough environmental impact report before a project begins and discounts work already done on the 115-square-mile area.

“The Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service failed to account for 145 miles of illegal roads within the project area,” Garrity said. “They just pretended it didn’t exist.”

The Forest Service claims it held public meetings during the planning stage.

Garrity said that because Anaconda and Pintler have already begun logging on to the project, the alliance could sue to block further work while the lawsuit progresses.

Disclosure: The Wild Rockies Alliance donates to the Endangered Species and Wildlife and Environmental Reporting Fund. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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