Three environmental groups have jointly filed an appeal of the Bitterroot National Forest's Noxious Weed Treatment Project, according to forest officials.
Alliance for the Wild Rockies, The Ecology Center and Friends of the Bitterroot are appealing the decision signed by Forest Supervisor Dave Bull.
In their appeal, the groups argue that the agency's final environmental impact statement on the weed project failed to develop and consider a reasonable range of alternatives, and failed to take a hard look at potentially significant adverse impacts of herbicide use.
The weed control plan that Bull approved, called "Alternative E-Modified" in the agency's environmental impact statement, authorizes specific noxious weed treatments and prevention measures on up to 5,000 acres of forest land a year, over seven to 10 years. The plan uses an integrated weed management approach, including prevention actions, aerial and ground application of herbicides, biological and mechanical controls, hand-pulling, and grazing.
Those measures, forest officials said, are designed to prevent or discourage new weed invasions, prevent or limit the spread of established weeds, limit the spread of weeds into and within wilderness areas, restore native plant communities, restore native plan communities, and treat weeds near the national forest boundary where adjacent landowners are interested in or currently managing weeds on private property.
Northern Regional Forester Brad Powell has 30 days to review the decision and determine whether the project should proceed.
Part of the appeals process allows the appellants, the Forest Service and other interested parties an opportunity to meet to try to resolve the issues before it is sent to the regional forester.
Representatives of the three environmental groups that filed the appeal met with forest officials in Hamilton last Friday, according to Don Stadler of the Bitterroot Forest. However, he said, no issues were resolved during the meeting.
Bitterroot Forest officials will continue to meet with the groups over the next two weeks in an attempt to resolve some of their differences, Stadler said.
In the meantime, he said, Powell will continue to review the decision in the formal appeal process.
Reporter Daryl Gadbow can be reached at 523-5264 or at firstname.lastname@example.org