contact Michael Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936
Missoula, MT — Two conservation groups filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. Forest Service to stop the Ettien Ridge Fuels Reduction Project 22 miles south of Stanford, MT, in a sparsely-populated area of the state. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystems Council, say the proposed timber sale will log old growth forest on elk winter and calving range, remove elk hiding cover in violation of the Forest Plan, and destroy habitat for other old growth dependent species. The project authorizes 641 acres of logging, 1,655 acres of prescribed burning, and new road construction that they say will violate the National Forest Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
Michael Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, says the Lewis and Clark Forest Plan designates the area to be logged as important big game habitat and restricts the amount of roads that can be built to protect big game, such as highly-prized elk. “But the Forest Service is building 1.7 miles of new temporary roads which will increase the road density to over 2 miles per section while the agency’s own Forest Plan limits roads to 1.5 miles per section.”
Garrity points out that the agency’s Forest Plan also requires that all management for this area must benefit elk habitat, adding: “Logging old growth and building new roads into elk winter range simply does not benefit elk habitat.” Moreover, the logging is scheduled during the winter and, as Garrity explains, “the Forest Plan very sensibly prohibits logging elk winter range during the winter.”
“We don’t like having to take the Forest Service to court, but once again the agency is demonstrating that they care more about make-work projects for bureaucrats and subsidized logging for corporations than protecting elk habitat and following the law,” Garrity added. “The agency really needs to get off this road building binge and just say ‘no’ when it comes to building more logging roads in elk winter range,” he concluded. “Especially when its own Forest Plan prohibits it.”
Sara Jane Johnson, PhD., is the Director of Native Ecosystems Council and a former Forest Service wildlife biologist. “The Ettien Ridge logging and burning proposal will destroy 800 acres of old growth forest,” Johnson said, explaining that this old growth forest is home to two goshawk nests, the Brown Creeper song bird, and the Great Gray Owl. “All three species are listed by the State of Montana as ‘species of concern’ because of declining population,” Johnson points out. “It makes no sense to stress them even more.”
“The Ettien Ridge area is part of only 60,000 acres out of the huge 1.8 million acre Lewis and Clark National Forest that is designated to be managed for the benefit of wildlife,” Johnson explained. “As a wildlife biologist, I can flatly say that cutting down old growth forest does not benefit wildlife. Timber companies and the Forest Service have already logged most of the old growth in this country — they need to leave some of it for old growth dependent species like the goshawk before they drive them onto the Endangered Species List.”
The groups are represented by Cottonwood Environmental Law Center in Bozeman.