Conservationists Praise Protections for Bitterroot Forest
After two long days of court-ordered mediation conservation groups and the Forest Service agreed to eliminate 27,000 acres of uninventoried roadless areas and sensitive native fish habitat from lands being offered for by the Forest Service to loggers. The settlement will also allow some logging to proceed in a burned over portion of the Bitterroot National forest.
Originally the Forest Service called for logging 41,000 acres. The settlement also preserves citizens' rights to appeal future Forest Service timber sale decisions.
"This agreement demonstrates that when the public is provided with an opportunity to express its concerns to the Forest Service we can find a solution that's good for the forest," said Tim Preso of Earthjustice, the attorney who represented American Wildlands, Pacific Rivers Council and The Wilderness Society.
Conservation groups filed suit in December after U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Mark Rey announced his decision to approve the massive timber sale and exempt the project from the public's right to administrative appeal. Earthjustice lawyers asked Judge Donald Molloy to stop the Forest Service from allowing logging to go forward until the public's legal right to pursue an administrative appeal was restored.
Judge Molloy first issued a temporary restraining order followed by a preliminary injunction that put a hold on the proposed timber sale. The Forest Service appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which turned them down and the mediation ensued.
Earthjustice clients are American Wildlands, Pacific Rivers Council, and The Wilderness Society which support balanced management of our national forests, but do not oppose all logging on the Bitterroot.
The conservation groups involved in the mediation were the Friends of the Bitterroot, Ecology Center, American Wildlands, Pacific Rivers Council, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and The Wilderness Society.