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[cdt-l] Bitterroot timber sale

Here is the latest on the Bitterroot sale.  I have reviewed the proposed 
logging operations.  They may touch the CDT slightly in the section between 
Schultz Saddle and Gibbons Pass, but would have no other direct impact.

Jim Wolf

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 19, 2001
 Doug Honnold, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, (406) 586-9699
 Bob Ekey, The Wilderness Society, (406) 586-1600
 Rob Ament, American Wildlands, (406) 586-8175
 Says Forest Service Was Taking Law Into Its Own Hands
 Missoula, MONTANA -- Late yesterday Federal District Judge Donald Molloy put
 a temporary halt to nearly 44,000 acres of logging in the Bitterroot
 National Forest based on concerns that the Forest Service illegally shut the
 public out of its decision-making process for the controversial timber
 Conservation groups filed suit yesterday morning after U.S. Department of
 Agriculture Under Secretary Mark Rey announced his decision to approve the
 massive sale and exempt the project from administrative appeal.  On behalf
 of The Wilderness Society and American Wildlands, Earthjustice Legal Defense
 Fund asked Judge Molloy to stop the Forest Service from allowing logging to
 go forward until it honors the public's legal right to pursue an
 administrative appeal of the Bitterroot project decision.
 Judge Molloy agreed that federal law clearly requires the Forest Service to
 provide for administrative appeals: "In electing to disregard the express
 mandate of Congress, the Forest Service is acting without authority."
 Accordingly, the Court found that the groups had "demonstrated a strong
 likelihood of succeeding on the merits" of their case.  In order to prevent
 "irreparable" environmental harm, especially to threatened bull trout in the
 Bitterroot River basin, the Court issued a temporary restraining order that
 prohibits issuance of timber sale contracts until a hearing scheduled for
 January 3.
 Judge Molloy's order questioned the wisdom as well as the legality of
 exempting the Bitterroot timber sales from the Forest Service appeals
 process. "The precipitous action here of electing to take the law into its
 own hands will cause the very difficulty the agency reasons it is trying to
 avoid," he cautioned.  "The action taken by the Forest Service here tends to
 cause the affected communities of interest to polarize ..."
 As the court was careful to explain, the decision to deny administrative
 appeals hurts loggers as well as environmentalists.  "By its impetuous
 decision to disregard what Congress requires, the Forest Service is causing
 further delay in its already languid decision-making, thus impeding the
 legitimate interests of those who want to harvest the salvage timber."
 The Judge's ruling came just hours after two conservation groups requested
 an injunction to protect the public's right to appeal projects such as the
 Bitterroot proposal.  On Monday, the Forest Service had moved to exclude the
 public from involvement in what would be one of the largest timber sales in
 the agency's history.  The Bitterroot National Forest proposes to log 176
 million board feet on 41,000 acres.
 Judge Molloy's ruling can be viewed at www.earthjustice.org.