Conservation groups sue over Swan Valley logging project

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Four conservation groups — Friends of the Wild Swan, Swan View Coalition, Native Ecosystems Council, and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies — filed suit in federal District Court in Missoula Thursday challenging the Beaver Creek Timber Sale on the eastern shore of Lindbergh Lake in the Swan Lake Ranger District of the Flathead National Forest.

“The Beaver Creek Project plans calls for 2,888 acres of logging, bulldozing 5.5 miles of new temporary roads and prescribed burning on 1,777 acres, with approximately 1,104 acres occurring within the Mission Mountain Wilderness,” said Steve Kelly of Friends of the Wild Swan. “Unfortunately, the Flathead National Forest once again violated the law by failing to adequately consider the cumulative effects of both this project and the Glacier Loon timber sale, which will likewise log thousands of acres right on the other side of Lindbergh Lake. It is dishonest to attempt to minimize the impact of this logging and road-building by cutting the area in half and saying it is two separate timber sale projects that don’t need to be analyzed together.”

Kelly said, “The Beaver Creek project is in Management Situation 1 grizzly bear habitat — which is the best grizzly bear habitat.”

According to the lawsuit, the Flathead Forest Plan legally requires the Forest Service to prioritize the needs of grizzly bears in Management Situation 1 habitats when grizzly habitat and other land use values compete.

“The Forest Service is doing the opposite. They are favoring a timber project that will cost taxpayers nearly a million dollars over the legal requirement to protect habitat for grizzly bears,” Kelly said.

Mike Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, said the Beaver Creek logging project is also violating the Forest Plan road density restrictions for elk security habitat.

“Allowing for an open road density of 3.5 miles/square mile during the logging project isn’t good for elk ,” Garrity said. “The Forest Plan itself requires an open road density of 1 mile/square mile for elk protection during logging projects, so this project is violating the agency’s own requirements.”

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