Michael Garrity, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936
Steve Gilbert (406) 443-0671
Damon Cox (406) 327-9320
Jeff Juel, The Ecology Center, (406) 728-5733
(HELENA) A U.S. Forest Service proposal to spend over a million dollars logging portions of three western Montana roadless areas and dumping 200 tons of sediment into a popular blue ribbon trout stream are being appealed by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Ecology Center. The two groups announced today that they have filed a complaint in federal district court in Missoula to stop agency plans to log 1,113 acres in the Lolo National Forest near the Rock Creek fishery, including 477 acres of the Silver King, Welcome Creek, and Quigg Peak Roadless Areas.
According to agency documents cited by the appellants, the logging would violate the federal Clean Water Act, by increasing sediment in Rock Creek by 200 tons over the next seven years, or 1,400 percent over current conditions. The dramatic increase in pollution would have major consequences for Westslope cutthroat trout, Montana’s official state fish, which have already been reduced to small fraction of their original habitat in the state. Bull trout, added to the endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a threatened species in 1998, would also suffer precipitous population declines, according to the appellants.
“The public wants the Forests Service to protect public wildlands and the world class fishery in Rock Creek, not to spend over a million dollars destroying them,” said Michael Garrity of Helena, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.
The Lolo National Forest Environmental Assessment disclosed that the Forest Service would lose $1,187,100 by logging around Rock Creek.
“Any risk to any resources where the government is giving away timber is stupid. There are no good reasons to log Rock Creek,” said Steve Gilbert, a consulting biologist who has professionally guided anglers on Rock Creek.
“To log Rock Creek would not only be devastating to the health of the stream but also to the health of the economy. To degrade Rock Creek would be a travesty that would surely spell the end of an extremely lucrative and sustainable resource,” said Damon Cox, a professional fishing guide on Rock Creek.
Forest Service studies consistently demonstrate inventoried roadless areas provide clean drinking water and function as biological strongholds for populations of threatened and endangered species, Garrity said. “Now the Forest Service wants to spend a million dollars to log in roadless areas and dumping tons of sediment and herbicides into what should be retained as a blue ribbon trout stream,” stated Michael Garrity. “We intend to protect the integrity of all three roadless areas, the water quality of Rock Creek, and Rock Creek’s priceless fishery.”
Rock Creek, located between Drummond and Missoula, is considered Montana’s premier fishery west of the Continental Divide.
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