9th Circuit: Flathead Forest Failed to Follow Plan

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – A federal appeals court says the Flathead National Forest failed to follow the grizzly bear standards in its Forest Plan, when it approved the Moose Post-Fire Project in 2002.

The project allowed increased motorized vehicle use on lands in grizzly bear territory.

Several conservation groups challenged the project. They said the Forest Plan mandates the Forest Service favor the needs of the grizzly bear, when grizzly habitat and other land-use values compete.

In 2006, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy ruled in favor of the Forest Service.

The groups appealed, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday reversed that ruling and sent the matter back to the U.S. District Court.

The appellate court says the Forest Service must establish a standard for evaluating when land-use values compete with grizzly bears’ needs.