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 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 Lonesome Wood Timber Sale which authorizes logging of old growth forests in occupied grizzly bear habitat, including some logging in an inventoried roadless area along Hebgen Lake, 10 miles northwest of West Yellowstone, Montana and just five miles west of Yellowstone National Park.
Michael Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies said, “Grizzly Bears in the Yellowstone Ecosystem were recently taken off the Endangered Species list and as soon as they were delisted the Forest Service proposed building more roads into occupied grizzly bear habitat.”
The Alliance for the Wild Rockies joined six other groups in a separate lawsuit filed in 2008 to reverse the delisting of grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem.
Garrity said, “We are suing to stop that de-listing because many wildlife experts believe the bear still needs the protections of the Endangered Species Act. In fact, the mortality thresholds for the grizzly bears were almost exceeded in 2007 and exceeded in 2008. Despite these figures, the Forest Service authorized over 5 miles of new road construction in occupied grizzly bear habitat.”
Garrity said, “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expected that roads would be removed from this area when they took grizzly bears off the endangered species list. Instead the Forest Service is building more roads in this sensitive area, and roads are recognized as the primary factor that leads to grizzly bear deaths.”
Garrity concluded, “In the grizzly bear de-listing case, the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks asserted that it could handle the responsibility of managing grizzly bears. However, for this Project, the FWP didn’t even send in comments assessing the impact of 5 miles of new roads on grizzly bears in this occupied and sensitive habitat.”
Dr. Sara Johnson, a former wildlife biologist for the Gallatin National Forest and Director of Native Ecosystems Council said, “The Forest Service completely ignored the only peer-reviewed scientific report on goshawk viability in the Greater Yellowstone Area. This report found declining populations of goshawks in the area, and speculated that the declines may have been caused by the logging of older forests.”
Johnson concluded, “The Lonesome Wood Project focuses on logging mature forest and large old trees, including commercial logging of over 400 acres of designated old growth forest. The Forest Service completely failed to address whether it was reasonable to eliminate this habitat for old growth-dependent wildlife species in light of the documented population decline of its own old growth indicator species, the goshawk.”