AWR Blog

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

Ashland – Two conservation groups, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystems Council filed a lawsuit yesterday afternoon in Federal District Court in Missoula against the U.S. Forest Service and Regional Forester Tom Tidwell to stop the Custer National Forest’s Whitetail Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project. The Project authorized commercial logging of 1,797 acres of old, mature forests, including clearcutting on 754 acres. The Project also authorized 9 miles of new road construction and reconstruction of 11 miles of old grown-in roads across areas that provide potential habitat for the endangered, black-footed ferret. The Project is located 17 miles northeast of Ashland, Montana.

Michael Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies said, “The Custer National Forest is moving ahead with this large clearcutting and road-building project without analyzing and disclosing the ecological impacts to the public.”

Garrity continued, “The Whitetail Project will negatively affect soil quality by increasing erosion and sediment transport in the area. The Forest Service has admitted that detrimental effects caused by soil erosion are long term. The soil lost by erosion caused by clearcutting can take thousands of years to re-form. The Forest Service has also admitted that displacement, the loss of topsoil, is a long term and perhaps a permanent loss of soil productivity.”

Dr. Sara Johnson, a former wildlife biologist for the Gallatin National Forest and Director of Native Ecosystems Council said, “The Forest Service believes that there is already no old growth habitat left in the Ashland Ranger District of the Custer National Forest and now they want to clearcut over 750 acres of the mature forest with large trees that is next in line to become old growth habitat. The Forest Service failed to explain why it is reasonable to eliminate hundreds of acres of habitat for mature and old growth dependent wildlife species such as goshawks, when the area already has no old growth left.”

Johnson continued, “Additionally, the Forest Service did not respond to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks’ concerns that this clearcutting project will remove some of the best remaining cover in the area for big game species and fail to leave adequate remaining cover for them.”

Garrity concluded, “The Healthy Forest Restoration Act is meant for projects that focus on removing small diameter trees in the wildland urban interface, not clearcutting large trees and future old growth habitat, 17 miles from the nearest town. The Forest Service needs to prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement for this project and share with the public the full impacts of building 20 miles of roads and clearcutting the few remaining old trees left in this forest.”

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