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At the urging of environmentalists and the Forest Service, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy signed an order Friday allowing loggers to retrieve trees cut before he stopped all work in burned areas of the Lolo National Forest.

Also allowed under the stipulation is tree planting on 1,000 acres burned during the 2000 wildfire season, and the piling of slash left by logging that occurred before Molloy halted the Lolo's post-burn project because of water-quality concerns.

Lawyers and leaders of two environmental groups - the Sierra Club and Alliance for the Wild Rockies - met with Forest Service officials after Molloy stopped the project and negotiated the order signed Friday afternoon.

The Forest Service requested some of the changes on behalf of Tricon Timber of St. Regis, which had a contract to cut 4-plus million board feet of timber from a burned area west of Superior. About 2 million board feet were cut before Molloy enjoined the work.

The request to move forward with tree planting came from within the agency; the seedlings already have been grown and must go in the ground this spring - or go to waste.

Still on hold are proposed timber sales totaling nearly 35 million board feet, numerous road maintenance and removal projects, three mine reclamation projects and numerous culvert replacements scattered across 127,000 acres of the Lolo forest.

"We are trying to accommodate Tricon's wishes," said Bob Clark, conservation organizer for the Sierra Club in Missoula. "We think it's in the best interest to do this work. We want the tree planting to happen, and we want Tricon to go ahead and get the downed and decked logs off the site."

Molloy's order lets loggers haul one load of timber stacked and ready on the Landowner sale and four loads decked at the St. Louis sale. In addition, loggers can haul away non-sawlog grade logs from roads in the area, and can remove nine loads of logs cut and on the ground in the Landowner sale.

The order also allows crews to clean up two already logged areas by collecting and piling logging slash. The timber sales are west of Superior in the Trout Creek drainage.

Tricon general manager Ken Verley had asked for the exception to Molloy's injunction, as logs left on the ground and alongside the road could quickly deteriorate. He had also hoped that loggers would be able to cut two large timber sales where the logs were to be collected and hauled by helicopter.

Those sales were not included in the order signed Friday.

Molloy stopped work on the Lolo forest's post-burn project earlier this week, citing the lack of information about several streams that would be affected by the work. Without baseline information, the judge said, there could be no meaningful analysis of the streams' ability to cope with erosion caused by logging and road maintenance.

Reporter Sherry Devlin can be reached at 523-5268 or at sdevlin@missoulian.com.

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