Two more groups sue over forest plan plan

Print Article

Two regionally based environmental groups contend that roads in the Flathead National Forest can significantly impair habitat for grizzly bears and bull trout, both of which are threatened species protected in the Lower 48 by the Endangered Species Act.

The Swan View Coalition and Friends of the Wild Swan filed suit Monday in federal district court in Missoula, asking the court to find that the Flathead National Forest’s revised forest plan violates the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

Earlier this month two other environmental groups filed a lawsuit challenging the revised forest plan — WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project. That litigation similarly cited concerns about the revised plan’s impacts on grizzlies and bull trout, but also described concerns about impacts to habitat for the Canada lynx and wolverine.

The latest lawsuit asks the court to set aside “unlawful provisions” of the 2018 forest plan and reinstate former habitat protections. The Swan View Coalition and Friends of the Wild Swan had said in February they might sue about the revised forest plan because they felt it abandoned key measures the groups felt protect bull trout and grizzly bear habitat in the Flathead National Forest.

Specifically, the groups said the U.S. Forest Service’s renunciation of Amendment 19, which required decommissioning of existing roads before new roads could be built on the forest, created real habitat threats to grizzlies and bull trout. The amendment had called for decommissioning an additional 518 miles of roads in the Flathead National Forest.

Earthjustice filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Missoula on behalf of the Swan View Coalition and Friends of the Wild Swan.

“The Forest Service should be removing old roads in the Flathead, not building new ones that threaten grizzlies,” said Josh Purtle, a lawyer in Earthjustice’s Northern Rockies Office.

Chip Weber, forest supervisor of the Flathead National Forest, is a defendant in the lawsuit.

In February, Weber said that science, observation and conservation measures already in place demonstrate that additional road closures are not necessary to protect grizzly habitat or conserve bull trout.

He said the revised forest plan updates grizzly bear habitat management strategies to maintain conditions contributing to the recovery of the bear in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.

Estimates suggest there are about 1,000 grizzlies in this ecosystem and wildlife agencies are preparing for the possible delisting of the bear as a threatened species.

In the Record of Decision for the forest plan, Weber wrote, “Given the improved condition of the NCDE grizzly bear population and its habitat, I find that it is not necessary to further reduce public access by about 518 miles.”

Keith Hammer, chairman of the Swan View Coalition, expressed a different view.

“The Flathead is abandoning road removal, the true habitat restoration it says helps grizzly bears and bull trout populations recover,” Hammer said. “The Forest Service is replacing that with road building and logging and trying to call it restoration. We don’t buy it and the science doesn’t support it.”

The lawsuit contends roads “and the motor vehicle and human intrusion those roads allow” are one of the principal threats to grizzly bears in the Northern Rockies.

The Flathead National Forest approved its revised forest plan in December. The new forest plan took more than five years to craft during a process described by the Forest Service and others as collaborative and informed by public input.

The Flathead National Forest includes about 2.4 million acres of public land in portions of Flathead, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Missoula and Powell counties.

Reporter Duncan Adams may be reached at or 758-4407.

Print Article

Read More Local News

Large-scale hazardous materials training underway

May 22, 2019 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake Members of the Kalispell Fire Department Hazardous Materials Team are conducting a joint training scenario today on the grounds of the Flathead Valley Community College with members of the Montana Na...


Read More

Edgerton student is national Scholastic essay winner

May 22, 2019 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake Edgerton Elementary School fourth-grader Violet Mellin was selected as the grand-prize winner in the Outdoor Alliance for Kids Scholastic Contest. Mellin’s persuasive essay “How Nature Improves the ...


Read More

Man arrested in stabbing incident

May 21, 2019 at 9:16 pm | Daily Inter Lake A 27-year-old man was arrested early Saturday morning in Kalispell after allegedly stabbing another man. Devin Sharp was charged with assault with a weapon after a third-party report led Kalispell P...


Read More

Contract awarded for next phase of Sperry rebuild

May 21, 2019 at 9:14 pm | Daily Inter Lake The work to continue rebuilding Sperry Chalet in Glacier National Park gained fresh momentum Tuesday. That’s when the National Park Service announced the award of a $4.73 million contract for phase ...


Read More

Contact Us

(406) 755-7000
727 East Idaho
Kalispell, MT 59901

©2019 Daily Inter Lake Terms of Use Privacy Policy