- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 10, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A 2,900-acre logging and forest-restoration project is starting this week on the Helena National Forest near Townsend.

The Cabin Gulch Vegetation Treatment Project includes timber harvest, prescribed burning, road improvements and temporary road building, the Independent Record reports (http://bit.ly/1o9YH0l).

The U.S. Forest Service says the work is needed because of a lack of tree diversity and age that makes the forest susceptible to insect and disease infestation that would result in the increased risk of wildfire.

“Forest specialists have worked tirelessly over the last nine years to develop this community-based and public-supported project,” Forest Supervisor Bill Avey said. “And then to work equally as hard to provide all of the necessary information throughout the appeals and litigation phases.”

The project is part of a 15,600-acre project near Deep Creek that has involved lawsuits by conservation groups concerned about wildlife habitat.

A federal judge last year blocked the Cabin Gulch project, saying the U.S. government did not properly examine the effects it might have on lynx and the threatened animal’s habitat. But the court later lifted the injunction.

Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Native Ecosystems Council in April sought to have the injunction reinstated, but they have so far failed.

“The (U.S.) Fish and Wildlife Service admits that the biggest reason for lynx decline is the loss of winter habitat,” said Mike Garrity, executive director for the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “We’re asking for an injunction and appealing the issues we lost on.”

The legal challenges resulted in some changes to the project, he said.

RY Timber in Broadwater County bid more than $4.1 million for the timber sale that’s part of the project.

The Forest Service says some forest roads will be closed on weekdays starting this week and going through Oct. 15. Officials said that includes Forest Road 423, which will be closed from the junction of Forest Road 4181 to the junction of Forest Road 423-C1 during the week.

___

Information from: Independent Record, http://www.helenair.com