MISSOULA, Mont. Removing trees burned during fires in a national forest could harm grizzly bears in one of the few states where they live outside Alaska, two environmental groups claim in a lawsuit.
In 2003, wildfires ripped through about 66,000 acres of the Flathead National Forest in northwestern Montana. Afterward, forrest officials held community meetings and decided to sell trees in the damaged areas.
But the Swan View Coalition and Friends of the Wild Swan said in a lawsuit last week that the roads and logging work needed to salvage the wood could cause more deaths or injuries to federally protected grizzly bears than are permitted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Flathead spokeswoman Denise Germann said Wednesday, “We feel confident in the decisions that were made.”
She said salvage sales involve about 61 million board feet of timber. Of that, about 7 million board feet have been removed, Germann said.
Work was suspended from April 1 to June 1 because bears were emerging from their dens, she said.
“We anticipated that work would begin June 1,” she said. “I’m not sure what will happen now, with this litigation.”
A call seeking comment from the environmental groups’ attorney was not immediately returned Wednesday.