Thanks, JZ for this AP story in the Helena IR.
Lolo National Forest Supervisor Debbie Austin said the one-paragraph order does not address the status of the project, so both sides must wait for the full order to determine the effect of Molloy’s ruling. But Austin declared it a win for the project, saying the judge ruled with the Forest Service on most of the claims brought against it.
“We won on 11 of the 12 counts, and most importantly, we did show that we provided adequate analysis and are providing adequate protections for lynx, grizzly bears and bull trout,” Austin said. “We’re just waiting for the full opinion and we’re looking forward to strengthening the cumulative effects analysis and moving forward.”
The Wilderness Society also called the ruling a victory for the project because Molloy upheld “their most significant argument,” that the project would not harm lynx, grizzly bears and bull trout.
Assessing the long-term cumulative effects on lynx habitat won’t present a major obstacle because the judge has already agreed the project won’t harm lynx, the organization said.
Garrity said that when the Colt Summit Project is put into the context of other logging projects on private land and in the neighboring Flathead National Forest, there is a real threat to lynx habitat.
“I don’t think that’s something they can paper over,” Garrity said. “It’s a real issue.”
Austin said contracts for part of the project that are not being contested, such as roadwork and culvert repairs, already have been awarded and work could begin as early as July 1. A contract for the logging portion of the project has not yet been awarded, and advertising the timber sale has been pushed back to later in the summer because of other priorities, she said.
But the important thing, Austin said, is that the judge’s ruling is a good sign of the strength of the collaborative process and the Forest Service will be working to develop more projects using that method.
“The design and development is much better and I think that is shown in the judge’s decision,” she said.
Note from Sharon: It should be interesting to see what kind of cumulative effects analysis is “enough.” Apparently, the bull trout and grizzly bear cumulative effects were “enough,” so we’ll be able to tell what Judge Molloy thought was missing. PS If anyone has a copy of the order please send to email@example.com.