AWR Plans to File Lawsuit over Montana Timber Sale

From the Western News here:

A potential legal challenge could result in the delay or termination of timber sales in the Kootenai National Forest that were scheduled to begin this winter as part of the East Reservoir Project.

Attorney Timothy Bechtold, representing the Alliance for The Wild Rockies, sent a notice of intent to file suit on Dec. 2, 2014, to the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and their parent agencies. The notice alleges the record of decision signed on Oct. 27, 2014 fails to adequately address the protection of bull trout, white sturgeon, Canada lynx and grizzly bear species native to the impacted area.

The East Reservoir Project, approximately 15 miles east of Libby, will contribute approximately 39 million board feet of timber products to the economy, according to the final record of decision issued by the Forest Service. Of that amount, Forest Supervisor Chris Savage said about 6.5 million board feet would be available in sale packages as early as this winter.

Lincoln County Commissioner Greg Larson was dismayed by the news of a possible delay in the timber sale.

“We need a sustainable and predictable source of timber in Lincoln County,” Larson said. “The lack of a predictable timber supply prevents companies from wanting to invest the millions of dollars needed to build a mill here.”

Larson said the county commissioners have been working hard to improve timber management in the area, the work that has been done in cooperation with the Forest Service and other stakeholders to ensure proper management of forest resources from both an environmental and economic standpoint. Suits such as this, Larson said, “are detrimental to those efforts.”

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  1. At left is the project map from the Forest Service for the East Reservoir timber sale on the Kootenai National Forest. At right is a satellite image of the project area, showing the extent of past clearcuts and logging. The Forest Service is proposing to log 8,800 acres with this project, including about 3,600 acres of clearcuts. Nearly 8,000 logging trucks would be required to haul out the trees. According to a Notice of Intent filed by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, the project area is home to bull trout, white sturgeon, Canada lynx and grizzly bears, among other wildlife species.

    IMAGES: At left is the project map from the Forest Service for the East Reservoir timber sale on the Kootenai National Forest. At right is a satellite image of the project area, showing the extent of past clearcuts and logging. The Forest Service is proposing to log 8,800 acres with this project, including about 3,600 acres of clearcuts. Nearly 8,000 logging trucks would be required to haul out the trees. According to a Notice of Intent filed by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, the project area is home to bull trout, white sturgeon, Canada lynx and grizzly bears, among other wildlife species.

    Here some more context. Some timber industry reps and the Montana Wilderness Association and Yaak Valley Forest Council (both of whom haven’t filed a timber sale lawsuit or even an appeal on any timber sale on the Kootenai National Forest in perhaps 15 years) wrote this ‘puppy dogs-n-ice creme‘ oped in the Missoulian yesterday. In quite an amazing feat of writing, these folks managed to mention the general word “wildlife” zero times and certainly didn’t say anything about bull trout, white sturgeon, Canada lynx or grizzly bears, which is the crux of the issue.

    Here was my response:

    As a former member of the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition I read this oped with interest.

    So, even though the letter writers admit that “America is a nation of laws,” they just don’t think the U.S. judicial branch of our government is a worthy place for legal issues to be solved.

    Instead they hold a somewhat pollyannaish view that “the best place to settle differences is out in the fresh air, in the scent of pines and the sound of the breeze overhead.”

    I’d encourage these letter writers to go tell that to their friends and neighbors who were knowingly poisoned and killed by WR Grace. Yes, perhaps if some of the Libby townsfolk’s would’ve just gone on a walk in the woods with WR Grace executives, the corporate executives would’ve come to their senses, right?

    It always amazes me how these rhetoric-filled opeds from ‘collaborators’ always need to be signed by so many people (gotta show the public all that support, right?) and always fail to provide the public with many of the actual details or substantive issues.

    Funny, but there’s zero mention by Robyn King and the other letter writers of bull trout, white sturgeon, Canada lynx and grizzly bear species native to the impacted area. Yet, that’s the entire crux of AWR’s Notice of Intent to sue over this huge logging project.

    Attorney Timothy Bechtold (an upstanding Missoula community member who raises money for local parks, etc) representing the Alliance for The Wild Rockies, sent this notice of intent to file suit on Dec. 2, 2014, to the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife. As anyone can clearly read, the notice alleges this large timber sale fails to adequately address the protection of bull trout, white sturgeon, Canada lynx and grizzly bear species native to the impacted area. See for yourself.

    So ask yourself, why would King and the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition completely fail to mention anything about bull trout, white sturgeon, Canada lynx and grizzly bears? Could it be that they don’t want the public to know the details and substance? Are they more concerned with winning a PR battle, than actually informing the public about what’s happening on public lands and to imperiled wildlife?

    While this oped mentions that 8,800 acres (almost 14 square miles) of the Kootenai National Forest would be logged under this timber sale, the letter writers fail to let the public know that about 3,600 acres of this logging would be done via clearcutting. And that much of this clearcutting would take place in habitat for bull trout, white sturgeon, Canada lynx and grizzly bears.

    Again, ask yourself, why would King and the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition completely fail to mention anything about this?

    While the letter states that the timber sale would result in 39 million board feet of logging, the public should know what this really means. That much logging will require nearly 7,800 log trucks, which if lined up end to end would stretch for nearly 70 miles down the highway full of trees from our public national forests.

    Keep in mind that much of this logging would take place not only within important habitat for bull trout, white sturgeon, Canada lynx and grizzly bears, but it’s also proposed to happen within a part of the Kootenai National Forest that is already heavily fragmented by previous clearcuts, logging projects and criss-crossed with roads.

    Again, I’d encourage the public to actually dig deeper and not take the rhetoric from the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition at face value. As a former member of that group I can tell you for certain that their main goal was to get more logging done your public national forests and there was very little, if any, attention paid to important wildlife issues.

    Please read the actual NOI from the Alliance for the Wild Rockies to see what issues are actually at stake. If we are truly a “nation of laws” you’d think this oped from King, the Montana Wilderness Association and Friends wouldn’t leave out most all of the details, substance and context. Thanks.

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