Michael Garrity, (406) 459-5936
Bob Clark (406) 549-1142
Eric Huber (303) 449-5595
MISSOULA Judge Molloy rules that the Forest Service must protect water quality and stops Lolo Post Burn logging project.
Federal District Judge Donald Molloy ruled in a lawsuit filed against the agency by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies based in Missoula Montana and the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club. On July 17, 2002, Lolo National Forest Supervisor, Deborah Austin, signed a Record of Decision authorizing the logging of 35 million board feet of timber on 4,600 acres including 2,797 acres of roadless lands. The decision included plans to construct 1.7 miles of new roads and rebuild 287 miles of existing roads. Yet the Lolo National Forest’s monitoring data and the Post Burn EIS clearly showed roads were the main cause of damaged water quality and impaired bull trout habitat.
The Alliance and the Sierra Club were represented in the matter by Eric Huber, an attorney with the Sierra Club in Boulder, Colorado and Timothy Bechtold, an attorney in Missoula, Montana.
“This is a great victory for clean water in Montana,” said Sierra Club Staff Attorney Eric Huber. “It means that the Forest Service must analyze these sensitive rivers and streams to determine how much pollution they can take before they allow huge logging projects that dump tons of rock, sand and mud into them. The Forest Service was trying to log first and analyze second.”
“We’re very happy that the streams in the Lolo National Forest will be protected and that the Forest Service must take a close look at the impact of logging on water quality,” said Alliance for the Wild Rockies’ executive director Michael Garrity. “Litigation is always a last resort but we’re committed to making the Forest Service follow the law and protect Montana’s pristine water.”
“The Lolo National Forest would have lost at least $2.8 million dollars on the timber sale if it would have been allowed to go forward,” according to Garrity, who is also an economist. “This shows once again that it makes no economic sense for taxpayers to pay the Forest Service to destroy critical bull trout and westslope cutthroat habitat. The Forest Service can create more jobs and save taxpayers’ money by complying with the law and restoring this area rather than by breaking the law and building more roads. We’ll be watching very closely to make sure they do.”
“We now hope that the forest service will get serious about moving forward with a project that is sensitive to ecological concerns, complies with the law, and provides realistic and sustained economic opportunities to the local community,” said Bob Clark, Conservation Organizer for the Sierra Club in Missoula.