Michael Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936
Steve Kelly, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 586-4221
The Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystems Council filed a lawsuit in federal court to halt a massive logging and burning project planned for Beaver Creek in the Ashland Ranger District of the Custer National Forest in Eastern Montana in July of 2011. This week, Federal District Judge Donald Molloy ruled in favor of the Alliance and NEC, remanded the project back to the Forest Service to comply with law and halted implementation of the project until the agency issues a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.
“This ruling is a win for elk and a win for clean water,” said Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “The Court agreed with us that the Forest Service failed to properly consider the impacts of the 35 miles of new roads on elk and water quality including, the project’s impacts from stormwater runoff.”
The project would authorize 1,487 acres of commercial logging, including hundreds of acres of clearcuts, and 8,054 acres of prescribed burning in a 10,508 acre area that the Forest Service itself describes as “an island of Ponderosa pine forest surrounded by range land.” The agency estimates will take 5-10 years to complete and will lose over $1 million of taxpayers’ money according to the Environmental Impact Statement.
“It makes no sense for taxpayers to spend a million dollars to destroy habitat, pollute rivers and streams and add another 35 miles of road to an already over-roaded National Forest” Garrity said. “This ‘island’ of forest provides year-long habitat for a permanent elk herd and is very popular with Eastern Montana hunters thanks to those elk. We’re pleased to see the Court agreed that the proposal failed to consider the cumulative impacts of road density on that elk resident herd.”
Garrity said the Alliance has been involved throughout the project planning process and has appealed and litigated the project twice because of its violations of numerous federal laws. “We tried to deal with the agency, alerted it to the legal problems and pointed out the habitat loss impacts. As noted in the Court’s Order, we fulfilled every requirement prior to filing our lawsuit. But the agency just wouldn’t listen.”
“This is a prime example of bureaucratic inertia,” Garrity concluded. “The Forest Service figures it has already dumped so much time into this very bad project that it must go forward regardless of the legal problems and the exorbitant waste of taxpayer money that will come with the one million dollar price tag for project implementation. But like the rest of us, federal agencies are required to follow the law and the Court has now ordered the Forest Service do exactly that.”