Liz Sedler, AWR, (208) 263-5281
Michael Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936
A lawsuit was filed by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies in Federal District Court in Missoula on Monday challenging the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to go forward with three road-building and logging projects in occupied habitat for the endangered Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear is almost certainly going extinct and roads pose the most imminent threat to these bears. Collectively, the three projects allow the construction of over 14 miles of new roads, reconstruction of 2.4 miles of roads, and re-opening of 8.5 miles of closed roads. The projects also allow almost 4,000 acres of commercial logging in occupied bear habitat, which will displace any bears present.
The three timber sale projects challenged are the Grizzly Vegetation and Transportation Management Project, the Miller West Fisher Project, and the Little Beaver Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project. In addition to challenging the U.S. Forest Service’s approval of these projects, the lawsuit also challenges the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s statement that the proposed logging and road building will not adversely affect Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bears.
Michael Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance said, “There are very few grizzly bears left in the Kootenai National Forest. The Forest Service knows most grizzly bears are killed near roads and now they want to build 14 miles of new logging roads at the cost of millions of dollars and the threat of extinction to the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear population. It’s time the Federal Government did the right thing for these bears – before they disappear entirely from the Yaak Valley and the Cabinet Mountains. They need more security and less disturbance from taxpayer-subsidized, money losing timber sales,” said Garrity, a former natural resource economics instructor at the University of Utah.
“The Kootenai National Forest is violating the Endangered Species Act with logging and road building that will clearly adversely impact grizzly bears in the area,” said Alliance’s Liz Sedler. “This is a clear violation of the law, which requires that management of endangered species habitat be based on the best available science,” she continued.
Sedler said, “The US Fish & Wildlife Service records reveal that the tiny Cabinet-Yaak grizzly population has been in decline for a while and that the decline is accelerating. In just six years at least half the estimated population in the Cabinet Yaak has been killed.” U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reports indicate the grizzly bear population is small, estimated at only 30-40 bears and 24 bears are known to have died during the six year period from 1999-2005, including at least 7 females and a number of cubs, whereas only sixteen known mortalities occurred in the Cabinet-Yaak during the seventeen year period from 1983-1998. More bears have been killed since 2005, including an adult female grizzly with cubs just this month.