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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Group Fights Feds for Grizzly Bears

MOSCOW, Idaho (CN) - A U.S. Forest Service plan to log 2,300 acres in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest violates old-growth standards and will harm grizzly bears and other threatened and endangered species, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies claims. The group also wants to use a recent Clean Water Act ruling to make the Forest Service re-evaluate runoff from logging roads as a point source of pollution.

"The region possesses ancient forest groves, impressive mountain peaks, and more than half the surface waters in Idaho," according to the federal complaint.

The forest provides habitat for "wolverines, flammulated owls, moose, elk, boreal toads, fisher, marten, black-backed woodpeckers, and goshawks," and for threatened and endangered species including "grizzly bear, gray wolves, Canada lynx, woodland caribou, and bull trout."

The Lakewood-Reeder Fuels Reduction Project would log 2,319 acres and apply prescribed burns to 1,179 acres. The project area spans more than 29,000 acres, around 6,000 of which are on private land.

Selkirk grizzly bears, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, lives in the project area, the Alliance says. It claims that the logging plan made numerous errors in marking trees for felling, violating buffer zone requirements for spring grizzly habitat.

Since roads constitute the greatest threat to grizzly bears, the plan's failure to keep forest screens near roads intact is particularly harmful to the bear. The plan also involves maintenance of 20 miles of roads, and opening or reopening more than 3 miles of roads, the Alliance claims.

An environmental impact statement never stated how the plan is compatible with the needs of grizzlies, the group says. It also failed to include correct information on indicator species, using an improper "proxy-on-proxy" approach.

Noting the effect roads have on sedimentation and stream temperatures, the Alliance cites an August ruling from the 9th Circuit that could require the Forest Service to re-evaluate stormwater runoff from roads as a point source of pollution under the Clean Water Act.

Represented by Dana Johnson, the Alliance wants the project halted.

The forest includes a mix of cedar and fir trees. Although fire is a natural part of the Western forest landscape, nearly a century of logging and fire suppression have created unnaturally dense conditions that can lead to catastrophic wildfires.

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