Environmentalists sue to block Ninemile timber sale

2013-08-14T10:14:00Z 2014-05-09T12:42:15Z Environmentalists sue to block Ninemile timber sale missoulian.com

A conservation group filed an injunction in U.S. District Court on Tuesday to block a restoration project and timber sale on the Lolo National Forest, saying the work would adversely impact a variety of species by altering their habitat.

In its lawsuit, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies says the Rennic Stark project, proposed for the Ninemile Ranger District, ignores a number of federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act and the National Forest Management Act.

“Logging and prescribed burning will adversely affect old growth-dependent species such as fisher, goshawk and lynx,” said Wild Rockies executive director Mike Garrity. “In this case, the federal government is once again simply ignoring the law.”

As proposed, the Rennic Stark project would allow commercial logging on 1,976 acres and an equal amount of non-commercial thinning.

The work calls for prescribed burning across 5,250 acres, including 2,800 acres within the Stark Mountain Inventoried Roadless area. The project calls for the reconstruction and maintenance of roughly 34 miles of existing roads to facilitate hauling.

“We’ve had biologists on the ground working on this project going on for four years,” said Ninemile District Ranger Chad Benson. “If we were jeopardizing lynx, grizzly bears and bull trout, we wouldn’t be in there.”

Lolo National Forest Supervisor Deborah Austin issued a “finding of no significant impact” in March, saying the Rennic Stark project would reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires once completed. Her findings also suggest that the project likely would not affect Canada lynx and bull trout, and it would have no effect on grizzly bears.

But the wildlife report and biological evaluation for the project notes that work “may affect the viability of old growth-associated species.” The agency’s finding of no significant impact also suggests that grizzly bears, gray wolves, fisher, flammulated owls, goshawks, elk and pileated woodpeckers could be displaced during the work.

Displacement would be temporary, according to the impact findings, and animals would have room to disperse into adjoining landscapes. Habitat would not be rendered unsuitable once the work is completed, the findings say.

“There’s no way they (Alliance for the Wild Rockies) gets as intimate or on the ground as we do in reviewing this project,” said Benson. “You do the best you can and then you get lawsuits from people picking things out of documents. It’s the debacle we’ll always be in. This is an area we’re not going to jeopardize.”


The Ninemile area is part of a larger linkage zone bridging the Mission Mountains and Rattlesnake Wilderness to the north with the Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness to the south. It’s used by forest carnivores, including grizzly bears, Canada lynx and the wolverine, among others.

The area also was identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as being core lynx habitat, although it’s not currently listed as critical habitat for the threatened animal. That designation was found invalid by a federal court and a new, revised version of critical habitat has not been released.

Alliance members note in their complaint that the project area may be designated as critical lynx habitat in the near future – a decision the group argues should be considered by forest officials before the project moves forward.

The group also says the project would impact the wolverine, along with pileated woodpeckers and goshawks. The injunction, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Missoula, claims the Forest Service has failed to adequately monitor for the species.

“Goshawks are listed as a species of concern because of declining populations,” Garrity said. “It makes no sense to stress them additionally by logging even more of their habitat.”

Benson took issue with the injunction’s focus on logging, saying it represents only a small portion of the Rennic Stark project.

Much of the work would be conducted in zones and restricted to certain times of year to ease any disruption to species known to inhabit the area.

“People hang their hat on the word logging,” said Benson. “It has nothing to do with purpose and need. It’s a tool we use to achieve some of the ecosystem restoration work we need to do. It always tends to be the contention, but it’s the byproduct that has to happen.”

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

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(17) Comments

  1. Shotgunner
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    Shotgunner - August 20, 2013 6:15 pm
    So now the forests around Lolo are burning down, in excess of thousands of acres and the timber sale opposed by the enviro group The Wild Rockies, is a moot point. Too bad the Mike Garrity's of the world and director's of extreme enviro groups, such as The Wild Rockies, don't let the Forest Service do their jobs and manage the forests in a scientific manner instead of taking them to court every chance they get opposing the Forest Service's forest management plans.
    The enviro groups that oppose these timber sales should be held liable for the suppression costs and value of the timber when a fire erupts in a proposed timber sale that was halted because of a law suit filed by one of the idiotic eco-enviro groups.
  2. wvmcconnell
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    wvmcconnell - August 17, 2013 4:05 pm
    This lawsuit is but one in a continuing series of efforts by environmental activists to further the non-management of National Forests and "let nature take its course". There is an ongoing movement in Congress to address this issue- one that every citizen, especially those in the west,should be aware of. For more info on this movement to restore rationality to the management of our public lands, check out this webpage.---http://www.wvmcconnell.net/?page_id=1028. and while you're on the site look at the other pages describing actual public land management debacles, their background, and their remedy. Then take action!
  3. RPT
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    RPT - August 15, 2013 9:41 am
    Not in the least madam ..Life is good.. I want for nothing.
  4. dave ajou
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    dave ajou - August 15, 2013 9:06 am
    The question is, why do you spam this board with your nonsense when you've never been in a forest, unless you count the plastic potted palms in your parents apartment building ?
  5. RPT
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    RPT - August 15, 2013 6:28 am
    It’s not the job of these parasite,anti-hunting,anti-wildlife environmental terrorist groups to GIVE money for conservation..It’s their goal to TAKE money out of the system anyway possible... Especially to entice the most gullible among us to hit the ‘Donate Here’ option on their websites as often and as many times as possible.
    They have no skin in the game and are the cause of much of the filth,rot,waste and decay that we are seeing in our society today.

  6. RPT
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    RPT - August 15, 2013 6:25 am
    The Endangered Species Act is the engine of social change being used by environmental elitists to destroy rural America. The wildlife that they pretend to care so much about are nothing more than tools of conquest to them.
    The unwitting allies of these destructive change agents are the uninformed urban masses who add their political clout to the big bucks of elitist foundations to arm this War against the West.

    There are many species on the endangered list but most of the attention and money goes to just a few of them and those are either fish or predators. This is because fish and predators:

    excite the public imagination more and are therefore good fundraisers and salescreatures for preservation.
    can lock up more land because they have large habitat requirements.
    The rest of the species on the list are mostly ignored until necessary to use them to stop some specific project.... Like a timber sale.

  7. reality22f
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    reality22f - August 15, 2013 4:53 am
    You are correct.....make them pay for this garbage themselves. Defending a law suit should not be standard practice for doing any logging. These people disgust me! Support Congress woman Lummis and her efforts at reforming the highly abusable Endangered Species Act.
  8. reality22f
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    reality22f - August 15, 2013 4:44 am
    raptor53, "Private money" ...... YOU have got to be kidding me! You obviously don't understand how EAJA works. Environmental Lawyers are the most disgusting vermin in the country. Sucking our precious environmental dollars down the drain....with bogus law suits like this! Use of our Natural Resources should not be dictated by the minuscule effect on wildlife like the lynx, fisher and goshawk. Think of the impact of wildfires on the old growth forest is by far more intrusive on these animals... The dollars spent defending these law suits, putting on these law suits (Judges) and paying for Environmental Lawyer reimbursement (EAJA) would far better spent preserving habitat or fire suppression! Quit spending our precious environmental dollars on environmental lawyers!
  9. elkguy
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    elkguy - August 14, 2013 7:50 pm
    When was the last time a timber sale wasn't opposed by the enviro-nazis? The Equal Access to Justice Act must be reformed (or repealed) before all of our forests are destroyed by fire.
  10. MontanaJim72
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    MontanaJim72 - August 14, 2013 6:07 pm
    The environmentalist's don't need to spend time on the ground. They only need to see what taxpayer funded results are in a given area. They send it to their lawyers and say "Let's sue". They only way to stop this drain on taxpayer dollars is to make the loser of any lawsuit payable for both sides of the litigation. The enviro nuts would quit filing in a heartbeat, and if they did file, it might actually have some credibility. Any time you see a timber sale approved, you can be guaranteed a lawsuit will be filed against it. Can the Forest Service really be wrong on every timber sale, or is it just the environmental industry trying to deny Montana workers good paying jobs?
  11. Salamanca
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    Salamanca - August 14, 2013 5:37 pm
    Did you truly consider the devastation that violent forest fires produce? That fires will wipe out local populations of the very wildlife you pretend to be concerned about? Do you realize that we simply have too many trees? That disease (like that which has occurred and continues to occur in the Helena area) is headed your way because of the lack of thinning, logging and fire? Or do you simply enjoy making fun of people who are "redneck supporters" without thoughtfully producing an argument that thwarts what others consider common sense?...
  12. Salamanca
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    Salamanca - August 14, 2013 5:32 pm
    Narrow minded, myopic, "environmentalists!" Don't they know (or even really care) that violent, prolific wildfires will wipe out local populations of the very wildlife they profess concern over?! Moreover, we have too many trees- too many! An over-population of anything carries with it the ever present danger of disease, and simply driving over McDonald Pass into Helena- seeing the diseased and dead trees should scare the daylights out of these people who consider themselves "environmentalists." I don't really believe, however, they care about the obvious, they simply adore blocking timber sales for the sheer power and adrenaline they feel when doing so.
  13. reality22f
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    reality22f - August 14, 2013 5:25 pm
    Caulk up another abuse of the Endangered Species Act...... These disgusting groups need to be neutered. Support Congress woman Lummis and her efforts to reform the ESA! Just think of the habitat that could be preserved with this money! Disgusting.
  14. MTGuy
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    MTGuy - August 14, 2013 3:24 pm
    “Logging and prescribed burning will adversely affect old growth dependent species such as fisher, goshawk, and lynx,” said Mike Garrity, Alliance for the Wild Rockies executive director. Hey Mike, the large scale forest fire that is going to burn through that area will have a much bigger adverse affect on both old growth and old growth dependent species. But I guess that kind of impact doesn't matter because this in only about you shutting down timber sales.
  15. warwagn
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    warwagn - August 14, 2013 1:21 pm
    This law suit is another waste of tax payer money. They need to change the laws to make it harder for ecoterrorists to file these on our dime. Every one thinks that the people filing the lawsuits have to pay for it, WELL they don't, you and I do, the taxpayer. Its a great law for all the anti job or anti anything thing people and it needs changed.
  16. John P Weber
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    John P Weber - August 14, 2013 12:46 pm
    These blasted environmental nuts need to get a normal life instead of wanting to see the forests destroyed by fire.
  17. raptor53
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    raptor53 - August 14, 2013 12:40 pm
    Isn't it a crazy thing that private money has to be spent to make the feds and their "Forest Circus" obey their own rules ? Can't even manage the Post Office (operating deep in the red), how can they begin to manage "forests" ?
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