Michael Garrity, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936
Liz Sedler, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (208) 263-5281
SPOKANE— A conservation group turned to the federal courts to protect critically endangered grizzly bears in the Selkirk Mountains in northern Idaho and northeast Washington. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies (AWR) filed suit to stop the Boundary Timber sale which will log 15 million board feet of timber on 1242 acres in the Bonners Ferry Ranger District of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. This timber sale includes helicopter logging in core grizzly bear habitat, which AWR claims will harm grizzly bears, increasing the risk of their extinction.
“Grizzly bears are dying each year, as this small population struggles for survival,” said Michael Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “The federal government needs to stop these money losing timber sales in critical grizzly bear secure habitat, which is key to these bears’ recovery.”
“There is ample scientific data indicating that the small, de facto endangered Selkirk grizzly bear population is in decline (12 mortalities in the last 4 years) and that it has a very low probability of long term survival. And yet the Forest Service decided that 3 years of helicopter logging in secure core habitat will not adversely impact the bears. The BlueGrass Bear Management Unit doesn’t meet the standard for secure core habitat and allowing helicopter logging in a portion of it adds serious insult to unacceptable injury for these animals,” said Liz Sedler of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.
In 1999, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service found that reclassification of the grizzly bear population in the Selkirk Mountains from threatened to endangered was warranted, due to the extremely low population size (estimated at around 40 bears), and the extensive road network in the region.
Due to the tiny size of these populations, the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan has a goal of zero human-caused mortality in the Selkirk grizzly bear recovery area. Since 1999, there have been an alarming number of human caused grizzly bear deaths, particularly amongst reproductive age females, the most critical component of grizzly populations. In the Selkirks there have been at least 16 grizzly deaths, including four females. Moreover, government scientists have found that all of the known deaths in the Selkirk are human-caused.
“Unfortunately, the Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will not even follow their own regulations,” said Garrity, a professional economist. “The Forest Service could create a lot more jobs and save taxpayers a lot of money by restoring this area rather than proposing more logging in critical grizzly bear habitat. The Boundary timber sale is expected to lose over $1,500,000,” Garrity concluded.