Montana Enviros Sue to Stop Feds’ Logging Plans

Environmental groups want to stop a forest-management project near Condon, Montana. (David Reese photo)

MISSOULA, Mont. (CN) – Four environmental groups sued the U.S. Forest Service to stop it from implementing a plan to manage 1,155 acres of forest in northwest Montana.

Swan View Coalition, Friends of the Wild Swan, Native Ecosystems Council and Alliance for the Wild Rockies filed suit Dec. 16 in U.S. District Court in Helena, Montana, to stop a forest project in the Swan Valley near Condon, Montana. The environmental groups want a judge to stop the Forest Service from beginning work on the Cold Jim forest project in the Flathead National Forest.

The Forest Service authorized the Cold Jim project in September, despite plaintiffs voicing opposition to it, according to the lawsuit. The groups contend that the forest project violates the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Forest Management Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedures Act.

The Forest Service, in its Sept. 14 finding of no significant impact of the project, authorizes fuels reduction and forest-health treatment on 1,155 acres on the Swan Lake Ranger District.

According to the lawsuit, the project as approved by the Forest Service was determined to “likely adversely affect” grizzly bear and Canada lynx, and will affect other wildlife species, including bull trout, a federally threatened species.

The project authorizes 620 acres of commercial thinning, 30 acres of clear-cuts, 45 acres of overstory removal and hand planting of “desired species” on 49 acres, according to the lawsuit.

Other named defendants include Flathead National Forest supervisor Chip Weber and Leanne Marten, regional forester of Region One of the U.S. Forest Service.

The groups seek an order setting aside the Forest Service’s decision to approve the forest project and for the service to prepare a full environmental impact statement for the project.

They are represented by Thomas Woodbury of WildLands Defense in Boise, Idaho.