Injunction Seeks to Block Logging in Montana’s Kootenai National Forest
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: March 20, 2023

From the Center for Biological Diversity

Project Will Destroy Spring Bear Habitat, Harm Fragile Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Population

MISSOULA, Mont.— Conservation groups asked a federal court today to block logging and road construction for the large Knotty Pine timber sale project in the Kootenai National Forest. The project threatens a small and imperiled population of grizzly bears near the Montana-Canada border.

In 2022 the groups filed suit in U.S. District Court in Missoula to challenge the failure of the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to analyze the damages that logging and road use authorized by the project will do to the struggling and isolated Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear population. Today’s motion for preliminary injunction asks the court to halt the activities the Forest Service authorized to begin on May 15, 2023.

“The Forest Service is allowing construction and logging in areas of the forest that green up first and produce critical spring food for bears,” said Kristine Akland, Northern Rockies senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This habitat is critical for female grizzlies, who need to replace energy stores they burned off during months of hibernation. These vulnerable grizzlies can’t afford to be displaced by logging any time of the year, and especially not in the spring.”

“The latest Fish and Wildlife Service count shows there are only 42 grizzlies left in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem,” said Mike Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “Yet the Forest Service is chomping at the bit to clearcut and bulldoze logging roads into the Knotty Pine Project area, which is home to at least four female grizzlies and at least one with cubs. This is completely irresponsible since most grizzlies are killed within one-third of a mile of a road.”

“The notion of cumulative effects — to grizzlies, water and climate — continues to be avoided by the Kootenai National Forest. Clearcutting old and mature forests accelerates fire risk and destroys vital habitat in the wettest portion of the Yaak Valley,” said Chris Bachman, conservation director for Yaak Valley Forest Council.

“Only an immediate court order can stop the Forest Service from punching in new roads and clearing illegal roads before the logging trucks roll in,” said Adam Rissien with WildEarth Guardians. “Once established, these roads do not go away and will continue to harm grizzly bears for years to come.”

Grizzly bears need large areas of road-free forest to survive and raise cubs. Today’s suit argues that the project fails to meet the Forest Service’s own requirements limiting motor-vehicle access to protect grizzly bears, significantly reducing the amount of secure habitat available to the vulnerable animals.

The brief notes that in June 2022 the Forest Service agreed that no logging or road building activities would start until May 2023. However, in November 2022 the Forest Service told the conservation groups that it had allowed construction of a road through important grizzly bear core habitat in October.

The Knotty Pine Project is one of several large logging projects proposed or authorized in the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear recovery zone.

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