- Associated Press - Sunday, May 17, 2015

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) - A conservation group has filed a lawsuit to halt a logging project in the Kootenai National Forest in northwest Montana.

In its lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Missoula, the Helena-based Alliance for the Wild Rockies argues that the U.S. Forest Service’s approval of logging on a 92,407-acre area along the east side of Lake Koocanusa Reservoir violates environmental laws and threatens lynx and grizzly bear habitat.

Last November, forest officials approved the sale of roughly 39 million board feet of timber northeast of Libby. The timber sale, named the East Reservoir Project, calls for the harvest and fuel treatment of 8,845 acres near Lake Koocanusa, about 15 miles east of Libby.

The timber total represents more board feet than the Kootenai National Forest typically harvests in a year. The timber harvest in 2012 was 24 million board feet. During the logging heyday of the 1980s, however, the annual Kootenai timber harvest often topped 200 million board feet.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen is presiding over the case, which names as defendants Kootenai National Forest Supervisor Christopher Savage; Regional Forester of Region One of the U.S. Forest Service Faye Krueger; the U.S. Forest Service; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Flathead Beacon reported (https://tinyurl.com/nsweytf).

Calling it “one of the worst logging projects in decades,” Mike Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, said the group went to federal court because the “massive clearcut and logging project” would affect tens of thousands of acres of national forest and five major tributaries to the Kootenai River and Lake Koocanusa.

The area contains nearly 2 million acres of protected wilderness and vast populations of wildlife, including many threatened or endangered species, such as grizzly bears, bull trout and lynx.

Community leaders and organizations in Lincoln County have praised the East Reservoir project as a potential boost for the local economy.

If it moves forward, the project would be spread out over five or six individual contracts, each of a three-five year term. Of the 39 million board feet to be harvested, roughly 24 million would be sawlog volume and the balance non-sawlog to support local small log markets.

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Information from: Flathead Beacon, https://www.flatheadbeacon.com


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