contact Michael Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5946
A lawsuit was filed by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies in Federal District Court in Missoula yesterday challenging the Forest Service’s April 20, 2007 decision to go forward with the Kootenai National Forest Invasive Plant Project in the Kootenai National Forest surrounding Libby and several small towns in northwestern Montana. The Kootenai National Forest’s Record of Decision authorized noxious weed treatment on 94,000 acres over the next 15 years. Specifically, the Record of Decision authorized aerial herbicide application by helicopter on 30,000 – 35,000 acres and ground-based herbicide application on 45,000 – 55,000 acres.
Michael Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies said, “I think the people of Libby have been poisoned enough. Aerially sprayed herbicides will drift from their target and could potentially land on people. Throughout the Project planning process, many members of the local community expressed concerns about being exposed to the herbicides but the Forest Service never candidly disclosed the potential physical effects of herbicides on the general public in the EIS and the Forest Service failed to adopt aerial spray mitigation measures to protect the public based on the best available science.”
Garrity said, “The fragile grizzly bear population in the area is being put at a greater risk. The US Fish and Wildlife Service records reveal that the tiny Cabinet-Yaak grizzly population has been in decline for awhile and that the decline is accelerating. In just six years at least half the estimated population in the Cabinet Yaak has been killed. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that there are only 30-40 grizzly bears left in the northwest Montana.”
Garrity continued, “The Project allows aerial herbicide application by low-flying helicopters over thousands of acres of grizzly bear habitat. The Project allows herbicide spraying over grizzly habitat every year for the next 15 years. The Forest Service says helicopters will displace grizzly bears up to a mile each time. Grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem can’t take much more. It is time to start recovering this population instead of constantly displacing it.”
Garrity concluded, “Noxious weed infestations on the Kootenai National Forest are threatening native plant diversity. Once an area is infested by noxious weeds, native plants may not return even if the weeds are killed with herbicides. Even with herbicide spraying authorized by the Project, the Forest Service admits that noxious weed infestations will continue to get worse because the Forest Service will continue with the same land management practices that are primarily causing the problem: road construction and use, logging, and cattle grazing. To ensure native plant diversity, the Forest Service should have considered an alternative in the EIS that proscribed preventative measures that actually stop the spread of noxious weed infestations by addressing the causes of the problem rather than risk spraying the people around Libby with poison.”