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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.
<< AMERICAN WILDLANDS
EARTHJUSTICE LEGAL DEFENSE FUND
THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
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
JUDGE HALTS BITTERROOT TIMBER SALE
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
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.