AWR Blog

contact Michael Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has granted the Alliance for the Wild Rockies’s request for a temporary injunction stopping the Grizzly Timber Sale in the Kootenai National Forest south of Yaak, MT. The injunction was granted while the Alliance’s appeal of the logging in occupied grizzly bear habitat in the Cabinet-Yaak is pending.

“The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear is almost certainly going extinct,” said Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “But nobody wants to talk about it, not Senator Tester, not Steve Daines and especially not the collaborators who call for more logging in grizzly bear habitat in the Kootenai National Forest. Reams of studies have found that logging and logging roads pose the most imminent threat to these bears and this logging decision calls for 24 miles of reconstructed haul roads for logging.”

Logging and road building commenced September 18, 2013, stopped for a few days during the government shutdown and were scheduled to continue through the winter. “The target population for recovery of the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bears is 100 bears,” explained Garrity. “But recent counts estimate only 41 grizzlies, which is less than half what is needed to ensure a genetically-stable population. The Forest Service is blatantly ignoring its own scientific evidence, which is why the Court granted our request for an immediate injuction.”

“Even with the limited number of bears, the Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service both find that the population is likely declining, failing all recovery targets, and exceeding all mortality limits,” Garrity continued. “With less than half of the number necessary for a viable population, this is like the Alliance pointing out that the emperor has no clothes to federal scientists whose own data confirms the plight of the Cabinet-Yaak grizzlies.”

In 1993, and again in 1998 and 1999, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service re-visited its decision to list all of the grizzly bear populations in the lower 48 states as ‘threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. It concluded every time that the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly population had deteriorated to the point of warranting an ‘endangered’ classification because the suggested protective measures have not achieved desired goals for habitat protection and restoration of a stable and healthy population.”

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Cabinet-Yaak population is “in danger of extinction” due in large part to the cumulative impacts of timber harvest and its associated road construction. “The predictions regarding the bear’s survival have become increasingly bleak,” Garrity said. “Yet the Forest Service continues to exacerbate the situation through more road building and clearcutting in the bears’ last refuge, even as human-caused mortality rates have tripled in the last decade.”

The government admits there were three additional grizzly bear deaths in the Kootenai National Forest in 2012. The federal agencies concede that these deaths only paint a partial picture because the numbers only represent known deaths — and there are likely more deaths occurring that are not reported and thus unknown.

“Not only is the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly population estimate below viable, these bears are also failing to meet all recovery targets,” Garrity continued. “They are failing to meet the targets for the number of females with cubs, the human-caused mortality limit, the female human-caused mortality limit, and the target for distribution of females with young.”

“The Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear population is on the brink of extinction and the Forest Service manages 90% of the bear’s habitat,” Garrity said. “In order to preserve the possibility that this population may some day stabilize and recover, the Forest Service cannot continue to implement multiple, simultaneous, logging and road-building activities that harass, displace, and facilitate the death of these imperiled bears.”

“As the Recovery Plan states, ‘each new action has the potential of being ‘the last straw’ from the standpoint of the bear,” Garrity concluded. “Given the dire situation for the grizzlies in the Cabinet-Yaak, the Alliance has no choice but to go to court to stop these logging projects or simply allow this distinct population of grizzly bears to go extinct.”

The Grizzly Project Decision which was signed in April 2009, called for 907 acres of commercial logging including 378 acres of clearcuts and 2140 acres of precommercial thinning and burning.

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