Michael Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936
Steve Kelly, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 586-4421
Bozeman, MT — The Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystems Council, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in Federal District Court against two proposed logging and road-building projects in the Gallatin National Forest. The Bozeman Municipal Watershed (BMW) timber sale is a 10-year logging project which authorizes more than 3,000 acres of logging, including 200 acres within the Gallatin Fringe Inventoried Roadless Area, 1,575 acres of prescribed burning, and 7.1 — 8.2 miles of new road construction. The East Boulder Timber sale, near Big Timber, MT would authorize 650 acres of logging and 2.1 miles of new road construction.
“The last thing you want to do in a healthy watershed is bulldoze in 7 miles of new logging roads,” said Michael Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “This is the fifth time the Forest Service has tried to push the Bozeman Watershed timber sale which has been successfully challenged four times since the 90s, including our successful administrative appeal last April. Simply stated, the agency’s proposal breaks a number of laws and this time around is no different.”
The groups also say the two timber sales would log lynx critical habitat, core grizzly bear habitat, and destroy habitat for other old growth dependent species. “The two timber sales do not comply with the best available scientific threshold to maintain open road densities of one mile or less per square mile of habitat in grizzly bear habitat,” Garrity said. “Moreover, the logging and road building will also dump sediment into creeks that contain native westslope cutthroat trout, Montana’s State Fish, which is already listed as a ‘Species of Special Concern’ due to habitat destruction and rapidly declining populations.”
“Those same creeks also supply Bozeman’s municipal water,” added Steve Kelly, a Bozeman resident and board member of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “It makes no sense to build 7 miles of new logging roads in the watersheds (Bozeman, Hyalite and Lyman Creeks) that supply our drinking water.”
“The Forest Service is determined to force bulldozers, logging trucks and helicopters into the Sourdough Creek, Hyalite Creek and South Cottonwood Creek drainages,” said Steve Kelly.”We are equally determined to protect the outstanding wildlife habitat, water quality and recreational opportunities these federal public lands provide to Bozeman residents and visitors who rightfully expect to encounter nature in a peaceful and quiet forest landscape “Bozeman Creek and Hyalite Creek are already listed as ‘impaired,’ meaning they’re not in compliance with state water quality standards or the provisions of the federal Clean Water Act,” Kelly explained. “Yet, despite an already degraded aquatic environment, this project will increase sediment loads in the streams both during and after logging. Sediment sources from past logging projects should be cleaned up first to protect both native westslope cutthroat trout and Bozeman’s drinking water supply from harmful sediment pollution.”
“The supreme irony of this project is that while Montana’s fish and wildlife agency is spending tons of money struggling to recover the population of this native fish and keep it from being listed as an Endangered Species, the federal government is promoting the primary cause of its decline — more logging and sedimentation in its remaining range,” concluded Kelly.
Sara Jane Johnson, PhD., is the Director of the Native Ecosystems Council and a former Gallatin National Forest wildlife biologist. Johnson contends the Forest Service is converting its emphasis for both areas to fuels management, which violates the agency’s own Forest Plan.
“The Forest Service loves fuels management because it promotes logging — and now, apparently nothing else matters,” Johnson said, noting that the federal agency is ignoring the adverse impacts the timber sales will have on water quality, fish, wildlife, and recreation. “The Bozeman watershed timber sale is scheduled to last 10 years. What that means is that the people of Bozeman are going to have to deal with logging trucks, road building and helicopters in their favorite back yard recreation area for the next decade.”
Johnson also says that the increase in road density will adversely affect grizzly bears and lynx, which violates the Endangered Species Act. “Under the Gallatin National Forest Service’s lynx conservation strategy, 55,000 acres of lynx critical habitat can be logged before they claim there is any impact to lynx, ” Johnson continued. “This is an insane, irrational extinction strategy, not a recovery strategy. The government is supposed to work to protect lynx critical habitat, not destroy it.”
“If we want to recover the grizzly bear and lynx and remove them from the Endangered Species list, they need secure habitat on public land,” Johnson explained. “Otherwise they will be forced onto private land where they often end up dead.”
“The Forest Service is also ignoring all road density standards for grizzly bears” Johnson concluded. “The last place the agency should build more roads is in critical lynx habitat and occupied grizzly bear habitat — especially when it is also Bozeman’s municipal watershed.”
The East Boulder project is being litigated for many of the same reasons, Garrity explained, “except in addition to more road building, the Forest Service also blatantly ignores its own Forest Plan requirements to preserve big game winter range standards.”
“The Project area contains important winter range for mule deer and moose,” Garrity continued. “The Forest Plan requires the Forest Service to manage big game winter range to meet the forage and cover needs of deer, elk, moose, and other big game species. Winter range provides important canopy cover that intercepts snow, blocks wind, and reduces snow crusting, making movement for big game less difficult.”
“The elimination of hundreds of acres of winter range in the project area coupled with the disturbance effects of winter logging will negatively affect the already below-average population of mule deer in violation of the Forest Plan, the National Forest Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act,” Garrity concluded. “We have been involved in every step of this process, made the agency aware of our concerns and it continues to push the projects forward. So now, for the good of the fish, wildlife, big game and water quality, we’re forced to take them to court. It’s not something we prefer to do, but in the end, judicial review is part and parcel of our system of government and we are using it to challenge the government’s actions exactly as it was intended.”