The following press release was released today by Swan View Coalition.
Kalispell, MT – A Kalispell-based conservation group is critical of a huge, landscape-scale “restoration project” announced today by the Flathead National Forest as a collaborative proposal for logging and other management activities in the Swan Valley. “Even at a glance,” said Swan View Coalition Chair Keith Hammer, “this huge project does not qualify as landscape restoration. It is instead a big logging project requiring even more logging roads be built in the already over-roaded Swan Valley.”
“The proposal fails to identify logging roads as a threat to terrestrial wildlife, let alone as the primary threat research says they are for elk, bears and virtually every species of wildlife,” Hammer said. “Instead, the Forest Service proposes to build new roads through high elevation avalanche chutes that are currently roadless and rebuild roads in avalanche chutes where the culverts were rightly removed because they kept plugging up with avalanche debris.” (For example, new roads are proposed through avalanche chutes on the south slopes of Napa Ridge in the Goat Creek watershed. A road previously put to bed in North Lost Creek, on the south slopes of Springslide Mountain, would be rebuilt).
Even though the proposal claims to “stormproof” roads to reduce the chances of culverts failing during high runoff, Hammer says that’s not the same as eliminating that risk by removing the culverts so they can’t blow out. “This huge project is a significant departure from the current Forest Plan that requires culverts be removed from roads not only to protect fish, but to also render the roads impassable and fully re-vegetated to protect terrestrial wildlife,” Hammer said. “This project is a peek at the revised Forest Plan that will remove limits on the miles of road the Flathead can have in grizzly bear habitat.”
Hammer points to the fact that the proposal would require two Forest Plan amendments suspending lynx management standards as another indication this is not a true “restoration” project. “If the Forest Service and its collaborators think they need to suspend lynx habitat management standards in order to restore lynx habitat, maybe they should focus on proving the standards are wrong and changing them rather than simply sidestepping them,” Hammer said. “This is just one more example of collaborative groups working to help the Forest Service get around the law rather than comply with it.”
The Flathead’s “Mid-Swan Landscape Restoration and Wildland Urban Interface Project” and Federal Register notice can be found at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=54853