MISSOULA, MONTANA – October 23, 2008 – 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 Lewis and Clark National Forest’s Newlan Bugs Timber Sale which authorizes logging 345 acres and construction of 1.4 miles of temporary roads. The timber sale is located within the Newlan Creek watershed on the White Sulphur Springs Ranger District in the Little Belt Mountain Range, approximately 13 miles northeast of White Sulphur Springs, Montana.
The groups contend the Forest Service is violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) and the Forest Plan requirements for big game, goshawks, soils and snags.
Dr. Sara Johnson, a former wildlife biologist for the Gallatin National Forest and Director of Native Ecosystems Council said, “The Forest Service is planning on logging the only goshawk nest territory with confirmed nestlings on the White Sulphur Springs Ranger District, which is one of only 17 such nests (with confirmed nestlings) on the entire 1,740,000 acre Lewis and Clark National Forest.”
Johnson continued, “Over 1000 acres in the Project area have already been clearcut. The Forest Service lied to the public when they released the decision memo and said that no goshawk nests were in the Project area. The Forest Service’s own surveyors found a goshawk nest in the middle of the project area. Goshawks are an old growth dependent species, whose population is declining on the Lewis and Clark National Forest.”
“Michael Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies said, Because of the high road density in the Newlan Creek drainage, there are only 600 acres of secure elk habitat left in the drainage. The Forest Service admitted that elk will be displaced and will not fully use these security areas if logging is permitted in the area. The Forest Service also admitted that the amount of secure habitat in the larger elk analysis area for the timber sale is not enough to maintain healthy elk populations, so increasing or maintaining the high road density violates the Lewis and Clark National Forest Plan and the National Forest Management Act.”
Garrity said, “The National Forest Management Act requires that the Forest Service ensure that timber will be harvested from National Forest System lands, only where soils will not be irreversibly damaged. The soils in the Newlan Creek and Charcoal Gulch drainages were damaged when the Forest Service clearcut over 1000 acres in the area. The Forest Service has never disclosed the extent of the damage, so it is impossible for the public to determine whether there is irreversible damage to soils.”
Garrity concluded, “This timber sale was illegally excluded from environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Forest Service used and exclusion intended to be used only for peer-reviewed research projects that include at least two non-federal experts. The Forest Service only consulted with one non-federal expert and the non-federal expert’s comments were never reviewed by the district ranger or shared with the public before the ranger approved the project. The Forest Service is in too much of a rush to get the cut out if they can’t even wait to find out what scientists have to say about the project as the law requires.”