- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit seeking to stop a forest project in western Idaho that the groups say will harm habitat needed by federally protected bull trout.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Idaho Sporting Congress and Native Ecosystems Council filed the lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Boise against the U.S. Forest Service.

The groups in the 10-page lawsuit say the agency violated environmental laws by approving the Lost Creek-Boulder Creek Landscape Restoration Project in September without proper environmental analysis.

The Forest Service said the project in Adams County on about 80,000 acres that includes timber harvest, non-commercial thinning, prescribed burning and improvements for fish passage on streams will improve forest health.

Mike Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, said the plan includes some improvements for bull trout habitat but not enough. “The little that they’re doing is more of a Band-Aid compared to the big wound of this logging and road-building and burning,” Garrity said.

Brian Harris, spokesman for the Payette National Forest, where the project will take place, says the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Specifically, the 10-page lawsuit said the federal agency is violating the Endangered Species Act by allowing logging to occur in areas designated as critical for bull trout restoration and survival without first analyzing the effects the project would have on that critical habitat.

Bull trout are a cold-water species listed as threatened in the Lower 48 states in 1999. Cold, clean water is essential for the fish, experts say.

The lawsuit asks that the Forest Service’s restoration project, including the awarding of any timber harvest contracts, be stopped and that the agency be required to do the type of analysis the groups say is dictated by environmental laws.

The Forest Service, in what’s called a Final Record of Decision issued in September, said the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project had been prepared within the guidelines set out by the National Environmental Policy Act.

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