AWR Blog

BLM pulls Logging Project in Lynx Critical Habitat after Conservation Groups’ Appeal

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Michael Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) pulled a previous decision to go forward with a 2,700-acre clearcutting, thinning, and road-building project after the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystems Council appealed the Decision Record because the agency had not taken logging impacts on lynx habitat into account.

“The public review and input process is working just the way it’s supposed to,” said Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “The BLM realized its own significant mistake after they read our appeal and knew it would lose in court, so it pulled the project. We look forward to having them do the right thing now and take into account the impacts this large amount of logging will have on wildlife, particularly lynx.”

The Chamberlain-Wales logging and burning project is located in the Garnet Range south of Ovando, Montana. The Decision authorized 1,210 acres of clearcutting and thinning, 1,483 acres of prescribed burning, and 2.5 miles of temporary road construction. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystems Council filed an appeal and a petition for a stay of that portion of the Decision which approved the pre-commercial thinning of 600 acres within the Project area.

On September 8, 2014, BLM filed a Motion to Vacate and Remand Decision, stating: “BLM now seeks to vacate its pre-commercial thinning decision and have that matter remanded to BLM to engage in additional environmental review and issuance of a new decision on whether to authorize pre-commercial thinning of about 600 acres within the Project area.” Yesterday, U.S. Department of Interior Administrative Judge James F. Roberts and Chief Administrative Judge Eileen Jones, granted the motion to vacate the decision.

“The BLM said the proposed logging in the Garnet Range wouldn’t hurt lynx because the agency claimed there weren’t any lynx there, even though it is federally designated Lynx Critical Habitat,” Garrity explained. “We pointed out that the Forest Service’s lynx expert, John Squires, found numerous lynx in the Garnet Range. Basically, the reason the BLM didn’t find any lynx is because the agency didn’t look for any. Lynx are secretive animals that are very hard to find and very easy to miss — especially if you don’t look for them. Now the BLM has to actually look for lynx.”

The appeal win will not only stop the thinning of 600 acres of lynx and grizzly bear habitat, but will also halt the additional clearcutting and road-building that Chamberlain-Wales Decision authorized.

“The BLM ignored the recent ruling in the Bozeman Watershed case, where the Court ordered the Forest Service to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service on their lynx management plan and any projects that affect lynx critical habitat,” added Sara Jane Johnson, PhD., the Director of the Native Ecosystems Council and a former Gallatin National Forest wildlife biologist.

“If we want to recover the grizzly bear and lynx and remove them from the Endangered Species list, they need secure habitat on public land,” Johnson continued. “The proposed logging in the Garnet Range would have adversely affected both grizzly bears and lynx, which violates the Endangered Species Act. Studies by the nation’s top lynx scientist, John Squires found that logging even thinning causes lynx to avoid an area for 50 to 100 years.

Johnson continued, “It’s puzzling why the Obama Administration seems to think that our nation’s laws don’t apply to them. Their plan for managing endangered species is generally both illogical and illegal, and is a strategy that will lead to extinction, not recovery, for lynx. The federal government is supposed to work to protect lynx critical habitat, not clearcut it.”

“More taxpayer-subsidized logging destroys habitat for endangered species,” Garrity concluded. “Montana has about 300 lynx, which is more than any of the other 48 contiguous states, but lynx populations keep falling because logging impairs lynx critical habitat. The last thing we need is more road-building and corporate welfare logging, which will kill more lynx.”

Please find the BLM’s motion and the court decision here. (PDFs)

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