Molloy: “Injunction more likely than project to harm grizzly bear”

Thank you to an alert reader who found this following up on our recent AWR theme…here’s the link.

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An on-again, off-again logging project in the Kootenai National Forest may be going ahead after a federal judge refused to delay it during the appeal of a lawsuit that claims threatened grizzly bear habitat would be harmed.

The project, which calls for logging more than 900 acres and burning 2,140 acres, is based on sound science and should not harm the bears’ habitat, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy wrote in his order Thursday.

“In fact, given the evidence, studies and analysis marshaled by the agencies, it could be postulated that enjoining the project is more likely to irreparably harm the grizzly bear than allowing the project to proceed,” Molloy wrote.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had issued a two-week block on the Grizzly Project while Molloy was considering the Alliance for the Wild Rockies’ request for an injunction during the appeal of its lawsuit.

The conservation organization’s appeal challenges a previous ruling by Molloy allowing the project to proceed. The group originally sought an injunction from the 9th Circuit, saying the project would likely be completed before the appellate court had a chance to weigh in.

But the 9th Circuit judges ruled the group first had to make the injunction request to Molloy.

Molloy denied the request in his Thursday order. If the project goes ahead, the conservation group will again ask the 9th Circuit to block it, Alliance for the Wild Rockies executive director Mike Garrity said Friday.

The 9th Circuit’s temporary two-week block expires Monday. Quinn Carver, natural resources and planning staff officer for the Kootenai National Forest, said the contractor should not have any impediments to starting the logging project after that date.

Garrity disputed that, saying the Forest Service must first receive the appellate court’s permission to proceed with the project.

The differing accounts could not immediately be reconciled.

I couldn’t find who is the author of this piece, but I feel great empathy for journalists who attempt to delve in to these complexities. And that line is great and honest “differing accounts could not immediately be reconciled.”

10 Comments

  1. Hello: This substantive, meat-n-potatoes paragraph was excluded from AP article shared with blog readers:

    “The conservation group says commercial logging and road-building could harm the threatened Cabinet-Yaak grizzly population that lives in the forest. There are about 40 of the bears, whose target population for recovery is 100, and their numbers are declining.”

    Let’s see: 40 grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak region. Grizzly bears are a threatened species in the lower 48 states under the Endangered Species Act. The target population for recovery of grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak region is 100 bears. So there are only 40% of the grizzly bears in that region needed for recovery and “their numbers are declining.”

    Also, highlighting Judge Molloy’s opinion that the ““Injunction [is] more likely than project to harm grizzly bears” is somewhat ironic given that most all of the court cases involving Forest Service timber sale lawsuits that we debate on this blog typically result in some type of statement from logging supporters that “federal court judges aren’t foresters/biologists, etc” and therefore aren’t equipped to make these types of management call.

    • No, but having judges make decisions can cut either way. I was just pointing that she/he who wins by the judge can also lose by the judge.

      My previous judgement (so to speak) stands that the courts aren’t the best places to find “the best science” and open transparent public debate would lead to better public information, science education, and better decisions.

    • And the alleged quote used here as a ‘headline’ is worthy of Fox News. Compare ‘injunction more likely than project to harm grizzly bear’ to Judge Molloy’s actual language: ‘IT COULD BE POSTULATED that enjoining the project is more likely to irreparably harm the grizzly bear than allowing the project to proceed.’

          • Jon, I have never seen any “it could be postulated that” or mostly any kind of conditional statements, in a headline. It seems unusual for a judge to admit even that “it could be postulated that” or “reasonable people could argue that..”

            But if you like, we can do “headline watch” and observe what seems to be the industry standard in newspaper or blogs.

            I get my news from the Denver Post and local TV stations, so have no clue about Fox or any of the others. If something really matters, I don’t trust any media very much, based on my experience with FS issues. They seem like they are slanted to a certain point of view and try to make the story fit their ideology. Except local news.. and I don’t have an explanation as to why the ideological component seems to go up as you go farther from the news source.

            That’s one of the reasons for this blog, in which people of many ideologies, with different kinds of knowledge to bring to bear, examine the same news item.

            • It would be nice to read the actual opinion, but I don’t see either of your judge quotes above as being unusual. For an injunction, a judge needs to balance the harms of granting an injunction or not. Judge Molloy’s quote in this case could simply be a use of hyperbole to support his conclusion that an injunction is not warranted (keep in mind his audience is the 9th Circuit, who it sounds like will be reviewing his conclusion). Whether ‘reasonable people could disagree’ is actually a common standard that judges must apply to determine whether there are factual issues that must be resolved (which is the subject of summary judgment motions). So I would expect judges to say these kind of things.

              News headlines are designed to get someone’s attention, and so I would not expect to see conditional statements in headlines. On this blog we’re kind of a captive audience, so I think the same result would have been achieved if you had removed the quotes and put a ? at the end. Except I would not have attacked you for it. 🙂

              (You might be on to a research topic on the relationship of ideology to distance.)

    • Thanks for sharing your opinion. So, if I understand your point correct, all the times when Judge Molloy has ruled in favor of environmental groups and against the USFS he was “eminently well-equipped to make such calls.”

  2. AGNTSA.
    Never mind that Grizzly is probably like Young Dodge, another AWR target, with a “project area” in the tens of thousands of acres.
    As for Molloy’s qualifications, I would say he’s just as qualified as Judge Winmill. Both are smart, both understand the law, and shape the law to provide outcomes that make the Ninth happy. I’ve read many of Donald Molloy’s renderings, and they are amazing stuff — firm adherence to dysfunctional law and case precedence.
    So, while Molloy is charmingly qualified, the results on the ground aren’t that great. In fact, a couple of years ago, when Molloy announced his senioritis, the Lincoln County commissioners called Molloy the worst thing ever to happen to Lincoln County, on paper. I think it was a letter to Max Baucus, calling on Baucus to pick someone less eager.

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