Judge rules for grizzlies in logging project

A federal court blocked a large logging project near Libby on Monday, ruling planners failed to analyze how it might hurt a struggling population of grizzly bears and Canada lynx.

“The Court and the public should not have to embark on a scavenger hunt through a nearly thirty-thousand page administrative record to find information that the BiOp (biological opinion) itself was supposed to disclose,” U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen wrote in his order favoring the Alliance for the Wild Rockies over officials at the Kootenai National Forest, Forest Service Region One, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and intervenors from the American Forest Resource Council, Lincoln County and the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition.  

The decision halts the Ripley Project on the Kootenai National Forest, which anticipated 10 to 20 years of commercial timber work on just under 11,000 acres east of Libby. It would have created about five square miles of clearcuts and 30 miles of new logging roads, along with reconstruction of about 93 miles of existing roads. The Forest Service estimated it would cost federal taxpayers $643,000 beyond what profits from the timber sales might have produced due to ecological remediation costs needed after the logging was completed.

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