by Arlene Montgomery, Friends of the Wild Swan
Montana District Court Judge Sherlock re-affirmed his injunction against old growth logging on state school trust lands after the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) attempted to sidestep his original Order. The injunction was obtained in February after Friends of the Wild Swan (FOWS), Alliance for the Wild Rockies (AWR) and the Ecology Center (EC) brought a lawsuit against the DNRC for developing their old-growth biodiversity guidelines behind closed doors without telling, or involving the public in their development. The court ordered DNRC to comply with the public participation requirements of the Montana Administrative Procedures Act (MAPA) in developing its guidelines for managing old-growth forests.
Rather than conduct a full public process to develop a permanent rule, DNRC, with Land Board approval, wrote a temporary rule under the guise of implementing a bill recently passed by the legislature (SB 354). The DNRC then proceeded to lift the injunction against old growth logging. AWR, FOWS and EC asked the court to review the temporary rule because the groups did not believe it complied with the court’s order.
“Did the Department comply with this court’s February 21, 2001 order? The Court rules that the Department did not,” wrote Judge Sherlock.
“The Court ordered the Department to follow through with the procedural requirements of notice and public participation as prescribed under MAPA,” Judge Sherlock continued.” The temporary rule does not necessarily implement the statute [SB 354]. Rather, it seeks to do away with this Court’s injunction. In the view of this Court, this Court’s injunction is in full force and effect until the Department sees fit to comply with its mandates.”