Montana: Lewis & Clark National Forest responds to lawsuits by withdrawing timber sales

Plans for a logging project in the Lewis and Clark National Forest of
central Montana have been withdrawn by the U.S. Forest Service as the
agency faced a lawsuit contending the work would jeopardize wildlife.
The Forest Service planned the Newlan Bugs Timber Sale properly but
lacked the documentation to defend the agency against the lawsuit by
environmental groups, Steven Martin of the Lewis and Clark National
Forest staff said Thursday. The project may be proposed again later,
Martin said.

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Plans called for logging on 345 acres in the Little Belt Mountains
north of White Sulphur Springs. In their lawsuit filed in October, the
Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Native Ecosystems Council said
the sale would violate federal laws and policies by harming soil,
wildlife and dead or dying trees that contribute to wildlife habitat.

The groups said elk and a nesting bird, the goshawk, would be at risk.
In the Forest Service’s Northern Region, the Newlan Bugs sale was one
of several projects drawn up to test tree thinning as a way to limit
forest damage caused by insect infestations, Martin said. Beetles have
killed millions of acres of pine forests in the West.

Native Ecosystems Council director Sara Johnson, formerly a wildlife
biologist for Montana’s Gallatin National Forest, said the Newlan Bugs
project would have logged the White Sulphur Springs Ranger District’s
only goshawk nest territory with confirmed nestlings. The entire Lewis
and Clark National Forest covering 1.7 million acres has 17 goshawk
nests with confirmed nestlings, Johnson said.

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