Judge Halts Key Logging Project in Grizzly Country
Monday, May 15, 2023
A U.S. District Court has halted a logging project in the Kootenai National Forest in Montana because of its potential to harm an already imperiled population of grizzly bears.
As part of the Knotty Pine timber project, the U.S. Forest Service would have cut a 45-mile-long logging road through almost 5,000 acres of the national forest, which grizzly bear advocates said would have decimated their decadeslong efforts to restore the animals in their habitat.
Mike Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, said the Cabinet Yaak grizzly population, which calls this section of the Kootenai home, is among the smallest and most imperiled in the lower 48 states.
"The recovery goal is to have 100 grizzly bears there," Garrity pointed out. "The population has declined to 42 grizzly bears down from 56 only four years earlier."
The judge halted the Knotty Pine project because he said the Forest Service did not adequately measure the impact of the logging roads on the already dwindling grizzly population. Garrity added the highest number of grizzly bear deaths occur along logging roads, sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose.
Garrity acknowledged grizzly bear advocates have faced opposition from the Forest Service, timber interests and some ranchers who pushed to have the grizzly bear removed from the Endangered Species List because they can threaten livestock in the springtime.
Garrity contends the efforts to delist the grizzly are driven by commercial profit.
"They were essentially saying, 'We don't care about grizzly bears, we just want to cut down trees,'" Garrity asserted.
The Forest Service could appeal the judge's temporary injunction, but for now the Knotty Pine case remains on hold while he rules on the larger lawsuit. Garrity added meeting the criteria to win the injunction bodes well for the judge to completely end the project when he makes his final ruling.
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