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Ninth Circuit Court Issues Injunction Halting Kootenai Forest Timber Sale

Photo courtesy of jc-pics/Flickr

On Monday, October 21, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of an environmental group, and agreed to issue a two-week injunction temporarily halting a timber sale harvest in Kootenai National Forest.

The U.S. Forest Service has argued that the timber sale will actually benefit grizzly bears. Michael Garrity of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies disagrees. Garrity said that the timber harvest itself is not the problem, it’s the new logging roads and, more specifically, the people that may drive down them.

“The grizzly bear population in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem is almost certainly going extinct according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Garrity said. “The number of grizzly bears killed every year keeps on going up. Most grizzly bears are killed near logging roads. People drive around in trucks with guns, see a bear, and shoot it.”

According to Garrity, the preferred solution for preventing grizzly bear extinction is for congress to pass new legislation, but that bills by both Senator Tester and Congressman Steve Daines would only make the problem worse

“Unlike Senator Tester, or Daines, which have introduced bills mandating more logging in the Kootenai National Forest,” Garrity said. “We have a wilderness bill in congress, which would declare the road-less areas in Montana as wilderness, and would try to remove some of these old logging roads that aren’t needed anymore, to have more secure habitat for grizzly bears.”

The bill supported by Garrity, titled the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act, is currently sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), but has failed to gather any support from Montana’s congressional delegation.

The Kootenai forest timber sale at issue has been been in a pitched legal battle since 2009, but Garrity said that not all timber/grizzly issues have to end up in litigation. Garrity pointed to the Spring Gulch Timber Sale (which did not create new roads) as an example of a timber sale that did not endanger grizzly bears or end up in a lawsuit.

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