MISSOULA, Mont. (CN) - Environmentalists say a logging project in Helena National Forest could harm the grizzly bear, Canada lynx and northern goshawk. The Native Ecosystems Council and Alliance for the Wild Rockies sued the U.S. Forest Service in Federal Court.
The groups say the Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated environmental law by approving hundreds of acres of logging and half a mile of new roads for it.
The groups claim add that the Forest Service has flip-flopped on classifying the logging area, changing it from winter to summer range for elk, moose and deer, to suit its own purposes.
These species use lower-elevation range in winter during mild years, and in late spring and early winter during harsh years.
This "newly crafted position" is contrary to the record, the groups say.
They call it a "concerted effort to eliminate the winter range classification," by misrepresenting the facts to the public.
Impacts to the threatened grizzly bear and Canada lynx were not properly analyzed, the groups say. They claim the project would eliminate 425 acres of nesting habitat for the northern goshawk, an imperiled predatory bird.
They say that cumulative effects of other logging plans, such as the nearby Telegraph Project, were not fully considered. The agency did not properly calculate canopy cover, or follow a minimum old-growth standard of 5 percent in developing the plan, the environmentalists claim.
And they say that the Forest Service withdrew a similar plan in 2007 after environmentalists sued.
Represented by Timothy Bechtold, the groups seek declaratory relief.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.