Michael Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936
Arlene Montgomery, Friends of the Wild Swan, (406) 886-2011
Four conservation groups, Alliance fir the Wild Rockies, Swan View Coalition, Friends of the Wild Swan, and Native Ecosystems Council, filed suit today in Missoula District Court challenging the Glacier Loon Timber Sale near Lindbergh Lake in the Swan Valley.
“This sale would log 1,405 acres in an area that has been heavily impacted by past logging and roads on former Plum Creek and Forest Service lands,” explained Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “Old-growth forest habitat is scarce and highly fragmented in this area due to massive clear-cutting by Plum Creek and the Forest Service. But instead of designating replacement old growth, this project will further eliminate habitat for old growth species. The logging and new road construction will also take place in wetlands and riparian areas critical to native fish and ponds that contain the threatened plant Water Howellia.
“This project harms wildlife that are on the brink, such as the imperiled fisher, which is extremely rare,” said Arlene Montgomery, Program Director of Friends of the Wild Swan. “This project will render over 1,000 acres unsuitable for fisher. Now that former Plum Creek lands are in Forest Service ownership there’s an opportunity to re-connect the badly-fragmented habitat and restore old-growth forests — but all this does is make things worse for wildlife.”
Sara Jane Johnson, PhD., is a former Forest Service wildlife biologist and Director of the co-Plaintiff Native Ecosystem Council. She explained the importance of old growth, snag retention, and the interconnectedness of species in the area. “The Forest Service wants the public to believe that forests need to be logged in order to have a healthy forest. But nothing could be further from the truth,” Johnson says.
“Wildlife and thick old growth forests go together,” Johnson explained. “A forest with beetle-killed trees is a healthy forest and dead trees are an important component of old growth forests. The beetles provide food for woodpeckers. When woodpeckers are in the forest, they drill holes in trees for nesting cavities. When woodpeckers are done using these holes, they’re used by many other birds that can’t drill out their own nesting holes. When the dead trees fall, they provide cover and habitat for snowshoe hares and squirrels, which in turn are eaten by pine marten, fisher, lynx, goshawks and great gray owls. The downed trees also provide important cover for big game, lynx, fisher, and grizzly bears. All these species depend on mature and old growth forests with plenty of dead trees to provide them habitat.”
“Much of this part of the Swan Valley has been logged, logged, and logged again,” added Keith Hammer, Chair of the Swan View Coalition. “In fact over 10,000 acres in this Project area has already been clearcut. The road densities in this area are really high and further fragment critical grizzly bear habitat. The truth is, it’s about time the Forest Service quits calling more logging ‘forest restoration’ and instead concentrates on restoring dwindling populations of lynx — which are in decline in the Seeley-Swan valleys — as well as the fisher and goshawk that depend on old, native forests.”
“No matter what the problem is, the Forest Service solution is always more logging and road building,” said AWR’s Garrity. “In the Swan Valley this has resulted in nearly wiping out native populations of fisher, lynx, pine marten and goshawks. And grizzly bears have to basically become nocturnal in this area to avoid human activity. Even though this is federally-protected habitat for grizzly bears and federally-designated Critical Habitat for lynx and bull trout, the Forest Service keeps approving more roads and more clearcuts all over the Seeley-Swan. ”
Garrity said, “More logging roads leads to more dead grizzly bears and less elk. Most grizzly bears are killed near roads and roads lead to a decline in elk numbers. The Swan Valley has seen elk numbers decline as logging has increased. It is time to say no to more road building and clearcuts.”
“We have tried to work with the Forest Service but the agency refused to listen to the best available science,” Garrity concluded. “It’s unfortunate that we have to once again take the federal government to court to force them to follow the law. At this point, however, we have no other choice if we want to conserve the last remaining habitat for bull trout, grizzly bears, lynx and other old growth dependent wildlife.”
Please find the complaint attached