Groups sue US Forest Service on Mont. logging plan

Groups sue US Forest Service on Mont. logging plan

10 December 2008

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USA — Logging planned in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in southwestern Montana would put owls at risk, say two groups who sued the U.S. Forest Service in an attempt to block the project.

The Native Ecosystems Council and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies on Tuesday challenged plans for the Barton Springs tree-thinning project on about 160 acres, 18 miles northwest of Philipsburg. The project would harm owls by diminishing an old-growth forest where the birds use large, dead trees for nesting, the groups said in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Missoula.

Beaverhead-Deerlodge Forest spokesman Jack deGolia said that as a matter of policy he would not comment on pending litigation.

In February, the Forest Service announced authorization of the Barton Springs project and said thinning would reduce risk that wildfires eventually would burn trees valued as a source of ponderosa pine seeds. The seeds are sprouted at the Forest Service nursery in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and are used to produce trees used in reforestation.

Fire in 2000 burned the Barton Springs area and other major ponderosa seed areas nearby in the Bitterroot National Forest, the Forest Service said.

The proposed logging, combined with earlier logging of nearby land, would result in a considerable area without nesting habitat for Great Gray Owls and Flammulated Owls, said Sara Johnson, Native Ecosystems Council director and a former Forest Service wildlife biologist.

She said cumulative effects on owl habitat were not analyzed before approval of the Barton Springs project.

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