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Michael Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936

Ecosystems Council, and Montana Ecosystems Defense Council filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. Forest Service to stop the Colt Summit Timber Sale on the Lolo National Forest, approximately 10 miles north of Seeley Lake, MT.

“This is the yet another example of the Forest Service trying to push money-losing, illegal logging in endangered species habitat while short-cutting legally-mandated environmental reviews,” said Michael Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “It’s hard to believe that, as Congress struggles with deficit reduction, the Forest Service estimates it will lose $1.5 million of taxpayers’ money on this timber sale during a period in which market demand is at record low levels.”

The timber sale authorizes 2,038 acres of logging, slashing, burning and new road construction in mature, dense, and old growth forest that violate the stands in Montana’s Seeley Swan Valley. “This area is a in a biologically-rich area of the Lolo National that includes occupied grizzly habitat, federally-designated Critical Habitat for lynx, and federally-designated Critical Habitat for bull trout. Simply put, the agency hasn’t done its homework on how these species will be affected by the proposed activities.”

As Garrity explained: “The Endangered Species Act and the National Forest Management Act only lets the Forest Service log grizzly bear, lynx and bull trout Critical Habitat if they can show there is benefit to wildlife. One of the few benefits the Forest Service came up with after they waste $1.5 million dollars on this timber sale is the increased vistas people will have when the trees are cut down if they drive on the new logging roads.”

Arlene Montgomery, Program Director for Friends of the Wild Swan said: “The timber sale logs in a key wildlife linkage corridor between two major wilderness areas for lynx and grizzly bear. The Forest Service calls this a ‘restoration project,’ but it will actually result in degradation of important fish and wildlife habitat, which isn’t restoration.”

Sara Jane Johnson, PhD., is a former Forest Service wildlife biologist and Director of the co-Plaintiff Native Ecosystem Council. She explained the importance of old growth, snag retention, and the interconnectedness of species in the area. “The Forest Service wants the public to believe that trees killed by beetles need to be removed in order to have a healthy forest. But nothing could be further from the truth,” Johnson says.

“Wildlife and beetles go together. A forest with beetle-killed trees is a healthy forest. The beetles provide food for woodpeckers. When woodpeckers are in the forest, they drill holes in trees for nesting cavities. When woodpeckers are done using these holes, they’re used by many other birds that can’t drill out their own nesting holes. When the dead trees fall, they provide cover and habitat for snowshoe hares and squirrels, which in turn are eaten by pine marten, lynx, goshawks and great gray owls. The downed trees also provide important cover for big game, lynx and grizzly bears. All these species can thank the beetles for providing them habitat.”

Garrity says they have taken part in every step of the administrative process in an attempt to remedy the flaws in the logging proposal, but that the agency simply refused to listen to the best available science. “It’s unfortunate that we have to take the Forest Service to court to force them to follow the law, including their own Forest Plan,” Garrity concluded. “At this point, however, we have no other choice if we want to conserve the last remaining habitat for bull trout, grizzly bears, lynx and other old growth dependent wildlife.”

Read the complaint here. (PDF)

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