contact Michael Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936
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 Eastern Montana.
“This project is blatantly illegal in so many ways it’s simply unacceptable,” said Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “It’s almost a clone of another proposed logging project in the area that we already stopped because it was so far outside the law. Why the Forest Service would try to slip this by the public again is a mystery to us. But we have no choice except to ask the court to halt it for the good of the forest, the water, and the wildlife.”
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.”
“This area has zero old growth,” Garrity said. “Yet this proposal — in clear violation of the law — is masquerading as a fuels reduction project and puts no limits on size or age of trees for the commercial logging.”
Garrity explained that the agency’s claim that logging and burning is necessary for “fuels reduction” is dubious because the project area is not in the “Wildland Urban Interface” as described in the Bush-era Healthy Forests Restoration Act. “The law requires such projects to be within one and half miles from ‘at risk’ communities,” said Garrity. “And the closest town is Ashland — 17 miles away.”
The project, which the Forest Service estimates will take 5-10 years to complete, will lose over $1 million by the agency’s own calculations. “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,” Garrity said. “The area is very popular with Eastern Montana hunters thanks to those elk. But the area also provides habitat for important non-game species. At least six black-tailed prairie dog colonies and possibly endangered black-footed ferret live there now and, if the Forest Service would ever allow the trees to attain old growth status, this forest would provide excellent habitat for goshawks, which are in decline across their range due to habitat destruction — primarily from logging old growth forests.”
Garrity said the Alliance has been involved throughout the project planning process and has already appealed the project twice, and litigated it once, because of its violations of numerous federal laws, and has now reached the point where judicial action is again the necessary recourse. “We tried to deal with the agency, alerted it to the legal problems, pointed out the habitat loss and their current non-compliance with old growth and species diversity requirements, but they 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 we intend to make the Forest Service do exactly that for a multitude of good reasons and to benefit present and future generations.”
Please read the Complaint for a full listing of the many legal problems with the Beaver Creek project.