Michael Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936
Steve Kelly, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 586-4421
Helena, MT — The Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystems Council filed a lawsuit on Thursday in Federal District Court against the Forest Service to stop the Cabin Gulch timber sale in the Helena National Forest, approximately 15 miles northeast of Townsend. This 8-year long timber sale authorizes logging 2,289 acres, including 417 acres of clearcuts, 602 acres of prescribed burning, and 6.5 miles of new road construction.
Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies said, “One of the stated reasons of this timber sale is to reduce the threat of wildfires but a recent Forest Service study concluded logging has little effect on how a fire burns with the exception that wildfires may burn more intensely in logged areas than in adjacent unlogged stands due to the higher wind speeds that occur in open forests and the heavy amount of slash left after logging. The report called for a change of approach. Instead of continued logging in the back country that has proven ineffective in moderating wildfires during extreme wildfire conditions, the focus should be on reducing the fire threat within the immediate vicinity of homes.”
“This timber sale would log important big game habitat, miles from any home and eliminate 2,500 acres of elk hiding cover in a landscape that has already been heavily logged and burned after the Maudlow-Toston and Cave Gulch fires,” said Garrity. “The amount of effective elk hiding cover and habitat is already so low that the Forest Service filed a special exemption for the timber sale to avoid complying with the scientific and legal protections for elk habitat and hiding cover that these large and iconic symbols of Montana require. A logical person would conclude that since this timber sale is going to make a bad situation worse, it’s not worth pursuing, but instead it’s full speed ahead,” continued Garrity.
“On the west side of the Helena National Forest, the State of Montana just spent $16 million dollars to purchase the nearby Spotted Dog lands, touting their great value as elk habitat. On the east side of the forest, the federal government is spending millions of dollars destroying elk habitat,” Garrity said.
Garrity concluded. “We have been involved in every step of this process and made the agency aware of our concerns. It is unfortunate that we have to ask the court to intervene to protect habitat for big game as the law requires. 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.”