contact Michael Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936
Two conservation groups, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystems Council and a local resident, Sharon Hapner, filed a lawsuit Friday afternoon in Federal District Court in Missoula against the U.S. Forest Service and Regional Forester Tom Tidwell to stop the Gallatin National Forest’s Smith Creek Timber Sale which authorized logging of 692 acres in the Crazy Mountains, including the destruction of over 100 acres of old growth forest. This area, approximately 35 miles north of Livingston, Montana, is an isolated mountain range that is visually spectacular, topographically dramatic, and has been the backdrop for Hollywood movies, such as The Horse Whisperer. The groups contend the Forest Service is violating requirements to protect habitat for elk, old growth dependent species, and a critical population of Yellowstone cutthroat trout.
Dr. Sara Johnson, a former wildlife biologist for the Gallatin National Forest and Director of Native Ecosystems Council said, “The area the Forest Service wants to log has already been logged to death. The Forest Service has already clearcut almost 5,000 acres in the Smith Creek area. An additional 600 acres have also been previously logged. The landscape is scarred with old skid trails, piles of soil, old landings, and depressions missing topsoil. The dense network of old logging roads in the area — 2.11 miles of road per square mile — has destroyed secure elk habitat. Additionally, all of the past clearcutting has removed critical hiding cover for the elk that migrate through the area. The habitat is so degraded that they rush through the area at night in order to survive their migration. This area stills needs remediation and time to heal from previous timber sales. Considering the existing compromised condition of the area, it’s premature to move forward with another timber sale at this time.”
Michael Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies added, “It’s important to connect the dots between past logging in the Smith Creek area and degraded water quality because poor water quality leads to compromised fish habitat. The upper segment of Shields River, into which Smith Creek drains, is listed by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality as an impaired stream under the Clean Water Act. The segment of the Shields River in the area is polluted primarily because of upstream timber harvest. Not surprisingly then, the imperiled Yellowstone cutthroat trout is barely hanging on in this area due to the high levels of stream sedimentation. This is a population that authorities believe is critical for the conservation of the Yellowstone cutthroat trout. It just doesn’t make any sense to encourage more logging in this area when we know that the logging will increase sedimentation and risk the extirpation of this critical trout population.”