Michael Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936
Liz Sedler, Alliance for the Wild Rockies (208) 263-5281
Missoula – Federal District Court Judge Molloy ruled on July 30, 2008 in a challenge by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies on December 5, 2007 of the Forest Service’s plans to helicopter log in secure grizzly bear ‘core’ habitat on the Kootenai National Forest. Judge Donald Molloy ruled that the Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service had failed to provide an adequate basis for their conclusion that the helicopter logging would not adversely affect grizzly bears in the Yaak Valley in NW Montana, where the timber sale is located.
The Alliance for the Wild Rockies cited documentation for two timber sales in grizzly bear habitat across the border in North Idaho wherein the US Fish and Wildlife Service determined that helicopter logging in grizzly bear core was “likely to adversely affect” grizzly bears. Judge Molloy ruled that the Forest Service had failed to address those determinations and to distinguish the helicopter logging in core proposed in the Northeast Yaak timber sale from that of the Idaho sales in order to arrive at the conclusion that it would not harm the bears.
Judge Molloy’s Order states that the “agencies have not articulated a rational connection between the nature and extent of the helicopter logging involved in the Northeast Yaak Project and their determination that the logging is not likely to affect grizzly bears.” (Order at 25) The ruling only stops the helicopter logging in core; other logging included in the Northeast Yaak project is not affected by the lawsuit.
Michael Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, said “We are very pleased that the Court stopped the helicopter logging in grizzly bear habitat.” “The Forest Service keeps logging more and more grizzly bear habitat even though the scientific evidence shows that logging grizzly bear habitat is driving grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone towards extinction,” Garrity concluded.
Judge Molloy noted in his ruling that the Forest Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service estimate that there are only 30 to 40 grizzlies in the Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone in which the timber sale is located. Due to its small size, the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly population was determined by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to be warranted for “endangered” status in 1993 and again in 1999. Since then agency scientists have determined that there is 91.4% that the population is declining.
Liz Sedler, grizzly bear recovery researcher for the Alliance for the Wild Rockies said “Since 1999 the mortality rate for grizzlies in the Yaak has skyrocketed. Grizzly bears are constantly displaced from secure habitat by Forest Service timber sales.” Sedler continued, “The Forest Service apparently expects the grizzlies to quickly adjust to these changes, figure out where the secure habitat is now located and avoid moving into dangerous areas where roads are open.” “This is obviously not working.”