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 yesterday 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 authorizes logging 692 acres in the Crazy Mountains, approximately 35 miles north of Livingston, Montana. This area 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 the Forest Plan requirements for Yellowstone cutthroat trout, big game, old growth and snags.
Dr. Sara Johnson, a former wildlife biologist for the Gallatin National Forest and Director of Native Ecosystems Council said, “The Forest Service admits that 112 acres of old growth habitat will be logged. The area the Forest Service wants to log has already been logged to death. 4800 acres in the Smith Creek area have already been clearcut. An additional 600 acres have also been previously logged. Evidence of past logging remains throughout the area: skid trails, piles of soil, temporary roads, landings, and depressions missing topsoil are common. The Forest Service is greedy when it comes to logging, they can never cut enough.”
Johnson concluded, “The Forest Service District Ranger acknowledged they are not currently meeting the Forest Plan snag requirements for snags, yet they want to cut more. The Forest Service needs to follow the law and let this area recover from past logging.”
Michael Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies said, “The Smith Creek area has been extensively roaded. In the 25.1 square mile Smith Creek watershed, there are 53 miles of open roads which amounts to 2.11 miles of road per square mile. The current road density in the Smith Creek watershed renders the elk habitat in the area less than 50% effective.”
Garrity said, “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. The Forest Service found that sediment levels in upper stem of Smith Creek are 27.3% above natural, and sediment levels in the East Fork of Smith Creek are 16.1% above natural levels.”
Garrity said, “A recent Forest Service survey showed that only a few Yellowstone cutthroat trout remain in the area. Yellowstone cutthroat trout are declining due to habitat degradation from roads and logging. The Forest Service admits that the proposed logging could harm wipe out the few remaining Yellowstone cutthroat trout. The Forest Service should focus on cleaning up Smith Creek and recovering the Yellowstone cutthroat trout population, not dumping more sediment into Smith Creek.”