Michael Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936
Steve Kelly, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, 586-4421
Bozeman, MT — Three conservation groups, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Montana Ecosystem Defense Council and Native Ecosystems Council, filed an administrative appeal on Thursday against a proposed 10-year logging project known as the Bozeman Municipal Watershed (BMW) timber sale. The proposal authorizes 3,162 acres of logging, including 200 acres within the Gallatin Fringe Inventoried Roadless Area, 1,575 acres of prescribed burning, and 7 miles of new road construction.
“This is the fourth time the Forest Service has tried to push this same timber sale,” said Michael Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “It’s been successfully challenged three times since the 90s, including our successful appeal last May. Simply stated, the agency’s proposal breaks a number of laws and this time around is no different.”
“The Forest Service illegally changed the management designation of the entire watershed to a Wildland Urban Interface to allow commercial logging of a watershed and lynx critical habitat,” explained Garrity. “But the Wildland Urban Interface designation effectively amends the Forest Plan in the project area without conducting the proper science and interdisciplinary analysis and the requirements for public opportunity for review and comment on any significant Forest Plan amendment. That violates the National Forest Management Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and the Administrative Procedures Act.”
“Federal law allows the Forest Service to only designate land as Wildland Urban Interface if it’s within one mile of homes,” Garrity continued. “The Bozeman watershed goes up into roadless areas almost twenty miles from the nearest house.”
The groups say the project would log lynx critical habitat, core grizzly bear habitat, remove elk hiding cover in violation of the Forest Plan, and destroy habitat for other old growth dependent species.
Plus, the logging and road building will also dump sediment into creeks that contain native westslope cutthroat trout, Montana’s State Fish, which is already listed as a ‘species of special concern’ due to habitat destruction and rapidly declining populations.”
“Those same creeks also supply Bozeman’s municipal water,” added Steve Kelly, a Bozeman resident and board member of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Montana Ecosystems Defense Council. “It makes no sense to construct 7 miles of new logging roads in the watersheds (Bozeman, Hyalite and Lyman Creeks) that supply our drinking water.”
“Bozeman Creek and Hyalite Creek are already listed as ‘impaired,’ meaning they’re not in compliance with state water quality standards or the provisions of the federal Clean Water Act, Kelly explained. “Yet, despite an already degraded aquatic environment, this project will increase sediment loads in streams both during and after logging. Sediment sources from past logging projects should be cleaned up first to protect both native westslope cutthroat trout and Bozeman’s drinking water supply from harmful sediment pollution.”
“The supreme irony of this project is that while Montana’s fish and wildlife agency is spending tons of money struggling to recover the population of this native fish and keep it from being listed as an Endangered Species, the federal government is promoting the primary cause of its decline — more logging and sedimentation in its remaining range,” concluded Kelly.
Sara Jane Johnson, PhD., is the Director of the Native Ecosystems Council and a former Gallatin National Forest wildlife biologist. Johnson contends the Forest Service is converting its management emphasis for the entire area to fuels management, which violates its own Forest Plan.
“The Forest Service loves fuels management because it promotes logging — and now, apparently nothing else matters,” Johnson said, noting that the federal agency is ignoring the adverse impacts the timber sale will have on water quality, fish, wildlife and recreation. “This timber sale is scheduled to last 10 years. What that means is that the people of Bozeman are going to have to deal with logging trucks, road building and helicopters in their favorite back yard recreation area for the next decade.”
Dr. Johnson noted that the increase in road density will adversely affect not only elk but grizzly bears and lynx, which she says violates the Endangered Species Act. “Under the Gallatin National Forest Service’s lynx conservation strategy, 55,000 acres of lynx critical habitat can be logged before they claim there is any impact to lynx.” Dr. Johnson continued, “This is an insane, irrational extinction strategy, not a recovery strategy. The government is supposed to work to protect lynx critical habitat, not destroy it.”
“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 explained. “Otherwise they will be forced onto private land where they often end up dead.”
“The Forest Service has also eliminated all road density standards for grizzly bears” Johnson concluded. “The last place the agency should build more roads is in critical lynx habitat and occupied grizzly bear habitat — especially when it is also Bozeman’s municipal watershed.”