by Brad Fuqua, The Western News
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy last week issued a temporary restraining order on three proposed logging projects in Kootenai National Forest.
The Alliance for the Wild Rockies petitioned the court for the temporary restraining order stating that ground-disturbing activities and road densities could impact grizzly bear survival in the Cabinet-Yaak area.
The judge issued a 28-day order based on a recent Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem study that identifies grizzly bear threats, including roads.
“Our top model strongly supported previous research that identified roads and developed sites as hazards to grizzly bear survival,” the study reads.
Kootenai National Forest Supervisor Paul Bradford said he believes the projects were designed in a way that would not adversely affect grizzlies. The forest also consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and that agency agreed.
“We are preparing a response to the plaintiff’s motion and will be filing our briefs this week,” Bradford said on Friday. “We continue to believe these three are good projects that should go forward.”
Michael Garrity, Alliance for the Wild Rockies executive director, said he’s just waiting to see how the final order comes out.
“We’re happy about it … the judge made it clear in his order that he hasn’t had time to read all his briefs,” Garrity said. The three timber sale projects include:
- Grizzly Vegetation and Transportation Management Project.
- Miller West Fisher Project.
- Little Beaver Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project.
The Grizzly project proposes vegetation management on 2,360 acres. Proposed activities include timber harvest, fuels reduction, prescribed burning, pre-commercial thinning, wildlife habitat improvement, access management changes, watershed rehab including decommissioning, and aspen restoration.
The Miller West Fisher Project includes vegetation management such as commercial timber harvest on 2,506 acres, access management changes, road storage and obliteration, prescribed fire on 3,148 acres, gravel pit reclamation or expansion, road BMP (Best Management Practices) implementation, trails work and other recreation work.
The Little Beaver project involves fuels reduction/management in the Little Beaver drainage. The proposal includes commercial thinning on 780 acres, regeneration harvest on 398 acres, prescribed burning on 691 acres and 5.5 miles of new permanent roads with two miles of temporary roads.
“The Little Beaver project is outside the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear recovery zone. We carefully considered the impacts and believe this project would not be detrimental to grizzly bears,” Bradford said.
The Little Beaver project also includes a component of work funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act designed to create employment opportunities. The Forest Service said that the ARRA project considered full protection for grizzly bears and habitat requirements for bears.