MISSOULA, Mont. (CN) -Environmentalist say the Forest Service plan to illegally clear-cut 1,200 acres of critical habitat for lynx, which will also wipe out mature, multistoried forest habitat for grizzly bears, goshawks, wolverines and the black-backed woodpecker. Friends of the Wild Swan challenged the federal plan for the Soldier Addition Project in the Flathead National Forest.
The area targeted for clear-cutting is "in a spectacular mountain complex known as the 'Crown of Continent' that is home to full theater of native and rare wildlife," the group says. It's near the wild and scenic South Fork Flathead River, in northwestern Montana on the Canadian border.
The Forest Service claims it will "regenerate" the forest by clear-cutting almost all of the mixed-conifer forest, the group says. This includes "some of the last remaining old-growth forest in Montana," and many 120- to 140-year-old trees.
All this would be in an area that is designated as critical habitat for the threatened Canada lynx, the group says. It claims the Forest Service failed to consider how the logging would affect the lynx or other species, including the threatened grizzly bear, whose core habitat is also within the logging zone.
The logging plan involves 3 miles of new roads and the opening of 3.4 miles of "historic" roads, and 14.5 miles of roads that were closed to protect the grizzly bear. It would remove saplings and include controlled burns and logging by helicopter.
The group challenges the Forest Service's contention that the stands should be logged now, before they are lost to pine beetles at some unspecified point in the future.
Represented by Matt Bishop of the Western Environmental Law Center, Friends of the Wild Swan want the project stopped.
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