Lawsuit says Logging Project Near Libby Threatens Grizzlies

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – A Forest Service plan to move forward with a timber sale in northwestern Montana jeopardizes grizzly bears and should be blocked, an environmental group contends in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

The suit the Alliance for the Wild Rockies filed in U.S. District Court in Missoula says the Forest Service arbitrarily advanced the Northeast Yaak timber project, calling for removal of trees on 1,777 acres north of Libby.

The suit names both that agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which the alliance says should not have agreed with the Forest Service that the logging and related road construction would not harm grizzlies. The bears are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The area in dispute is part of the federally designated Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone about 30 miles north of Libby. The zone covering 2,600 square miles has 30-40 grizzlies, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Willie Sykes at the Kootenai National Forest headquarters in Libby and Sharon Rose at the Fish and Wildlife Service’s regional office in Denver said their agencies had no comment on the lawsuit.

“The Kootenai National Forest is now attempting to rely on outdated road management standards to say that the proposed logging and road building will not adversely impact grizzly bears in the area,” Liz Sedler of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies said in a statement.

“This is a clear violation of the law, which requires that management of endangered species habitat be based on the best available science.”

The lawsuit says the Forest Service should not be permitted to advance the timber sale before they prepare a supplemental environmental study and release a new record of decision.

The Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone is one of several areas in the northern United States that the Fish and Wildlife Service identified, in 1993, as having grizzly bears or habitat suitable for them. The zones include the ecosystem in the Yellowstone National Park area.