AWR Press Release on Colt Summit Timber Sale

 JUNE 21, 2012

Calling it “a great win for the lynx,” Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, announced that Federal District Judge Donald W. Molloy halted the Colt Summit Timber Sale on the Seeley Lake Ranger District on June 20th.

Garrity said, “Judge Molloy agreed with us that the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to analyze the project’s cumulative impacts on the lynx, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.  Judge Molloy has remanded the project back to the agency for further consideration and analysis.”

Friends of the Wild Swan, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Native Ecosystems Council, and Montana Ecosystems Defense Council brought the lawsuit against the Lolo National Forest and were represented by Matt Bishop of the Western Environmental Law Center. The groups did not challenge the road reclamation work associated with the project.

“We are pleased that the court recognized that the analysis of effects to lynx by the Forest Service was inadequate,” said Arlene Montgomery, Program Director for Friends of the Wild Swan.  “This area is a critical wildlife linkage corridor between the Swan Range in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area to the east and the Mission Mountains Wilderness Area to the west.  It was designated as lynx critical habitat and deserves extra protection.”

“This project was controversial because it was supported by groups and individuals associated with the Southwest Crown of the Continent Collaborative,” Garrity explained “But although the Montana Wilderness Association, the National Wildlife Federation and the Wilderness Society claimed they were heavily involved in the development of the project, the project records gave no indication of that.  It was proposed by the Forest Service and then supported by those groups despite the fact that there were no discussions of the impacts to lynx between the collaborators and the Forest Service.”

George Wuerthner, an independent ecologist, author, and photographer, recently flew over the Colt Summit area to photograph the area.  “I was shocked to see how much of the Seeley-Swan Valley is already logged that is not readily visible from the main highway or even by driving back roads. The problem for the Forest Service is that they are up against limits. You can’t continue to cut more and more of the valley without jeopardizing other values. There is such a thing as cumulative impacts and death by a thousand cuts.”

1 thought on “AWR Press Release on Colt Summit Timber Sale”

  1. Maybe someone can help me here as this is confusing. (Note, I generally find the interaction of NEPA and ESA confusing in these kinds of cases). Apparently the plaintiffs did not prevail under an ESA claim (it hurts lynx), but did under this NEPA claim? NEPA being procedural, it is simply a question of documentation. We can explore this further as I think that this project may be a good example of a variety of issues associated with doing good NEPA in a litigious environment.

    After all, in Judge Molloy’s words:

    The Forest Service adequately analyzed the Project’s effects on lynx and grizzlies and did not violate Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act. Furthermore, the Service did not improperly exclude the Summit Salvage Project Area from its analysis.

    So it sounds like he’s saying that the project does not harm lynx, but based on NEPA an analysis of cumulative effects is required.
    Mr. Wuerther portrays this project as “the FS wants to cut” (assumably for sheer love of stump-viewing). I think the array of collaborators, who all have their good names to uphold, suggests otherwise.

    I also think it’s interesting that Mr. Garrity questions the collaborators’ discussions of lynx. Perhaps they did discuss it individually, or simply read the documentation. If collaborators discuss something and it isn’t documented, does it count? Every human relationship and discussion may need to be documented to be in a court of law, it doesn’t need to be documented to exist.

    It seems like in this press release Mr. Garrity is basically accusing the groups in the collaboration of not doing due diligence (with respect to an endangered species!) on the project. Because it wasn’t in the litigation record? That seems like quite an accusation. What if they read the specialist report or had it reviewed and agreed with it? Does Mr. Garrity feel like other groups need to prove to him (or to the world) that they did consider the effects? Why?

    Finally, the Judge agrees that in all counts but one the FS did a good job. Is it unreasonable to believe, then, that the groups agreed with the judge and the FS? I am mystified by this jab at the other groups.

    You can just look at the changes between draft and final that I posted below, and see that public comment and the collaborators seriously influenced the design of the project.


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