Michael Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936
Priest Lake, Idaho—A lawsuit was filed by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies in Federal District Court in Idaho yesterday challenging the Forest Service’s decision to go forward with the Lakeview-Reeder logging project in the Priest Lake Ranger District of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. Ranotta McNair, Supervisor of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, signed a Record of Decision authorizing the implementation of the project on May 10, 2010. The project is located near Nordman, Idaho on the west side of Priest Lake.
“We’ve been involved in this process through all the stages of decision-making and provided the information to the Forest Service regarding what we sincerely believe are violations of major federal environmental laws,” said Michael Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “Unfortunately, the agency decided to go ahead with the project and our only recourse at this point is to ask the Court to stop it before more damage is done to this already heavily-logged forest.”
The 29,380 acre project area is located in the Granite, Kalispell, and Reeder Creek watersheds on the west side of Idaho’s Priest Lake, all of which are already listed as “impaired waters” by the State of Idaho. The Complaint notes that the logging and burning will eliminate over 220 acres of suitable fisher denning habitat; over 440 acres of suitable goshawk nesting habitat that would not be regained for at least 60-70 years; render at least 420 acres of potential pileated woodpecker nesting habitat unsuitable and render over 200 acres of capable lynx habitat unsuitable. Helicopter burning, which is authorized by the project, will displace grizzly bears from important habitat during its implementation. The project also calls for 15 million board feet (more than 3000 logging truck loads) of logging, 20 miles of road maintenance, 2 miles of permanent road reconstruction, 2.5 miles of permanent road construction, and .7 mile of temporary road construction.
“Really, when you consider what’s at stake here, it’s definitely worth fighting for,” said Garrity. “The list of threatened, endangered and sensitive species alone justifies the injunction. This area contains almost half of Idaho’s surface water and the project will increase sedimentation by 14 percent in many areas. The agency has simply failed to properly analyze the potential impacts as required by law and we don’t feel they should proceed until they comply with the laws intended to regulate these activities.”
The suit alleges that the Forest Service failed to take a hard look at and disclose whether Project activities were compatible with the needs of the grizzly bear, as required by the Idaho Panhandle National Forest Plan and federal environmental laws. “The logging, along with the road construction and increased road use, will adversely affect the endangered Selkirk grizzly bear population,” according to Alliance’s Liz Sedler. “The Forest Service is already violating the road density standards it has set for itself in grizzly bear habitat. Removing hiding cover and disturbing and displacing bears from their preferred habitat during logging operations is adding unacceptable stress to an already imperiled grizzly population.”
The suit also alleges that the Forest Service is failing to ensure the viability of old-growth dependent, sensitive, and management indicator species, as required by the Idaho Panhandle Forest Plan and federal environmental laws. “The Forest Service admits that the Project will degrade, eliminate, or render unsuitable various acreages of currently suitable habitat for the American marten, the fisher, the northern goshawk, and the pileated woodpecker,” according to Michael Garrity, Alliance’s Executive Director. These birds and mammals are designated by the Forest Service as indicator species for other old growth dependent and sensitive wildlife species found in the Priest Lake forests. “The Forest Service has not monitored and established population trends for any of these species, so we have no idea how populations of old growth species are responding to past and current logging projects. This is especially worrisome because the amount of old growth in the Project area is currently failing to meet the Forest Service’s own required thresholds for old growth habitat,” he continued.
“Going to court is no fun, but federal agencies, just like the rest of us, should follow the law,” concluded Garrity. “The job of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies is to make sure they do.”
The case name / number: 2:10-cv-00504-EJL Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. McNair
Complaint, Oct. 6, 2010