by Gazette News Services
A logging project planned on more than 1,700 acres on the Custer National Forest’s Ashland District is under fire from two conservation groups.
The Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystems Council filed a lawsuit Thursday afternoon in Federal District Court in Missoula against the U.S. Forest Service and Regional Forester Tom Tidwell to stop the Whitetail Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project, located about 17 miles northeast of Ashland.
The project included clearcutting more than 750 acres and authorized construction of 9 miles of new road and reconstruction of 11 miles of overgrown roads across areas that provide potential habitat for the endangered black-footed ferret, the groups charged.
The groups also contend that the logging would negatively affect soil quality by increasing erosion and sediment transport in the area and that old growth trees in the project area are key to species such as goshawks.
“The Healthy Forest Restoration Act is meant for projects that focus on removing small diameter trees in the wildland urban interface, not clearcutting large trees and future old growth habitat 17 miles from the nearest town,” Michael Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, said in a statement.