1. Round one to the grizzly bear! 

    The Alliance for the Wild Rockies (AWR), a Montana-based environmental activist group, recently waged a legal fight against the Libby, Montana Kootenai Forest Service to block USFS-sanctioned logging activities in several protected grizzly bear habitats.

    The Kootenai National Forest administration in Lincoln County had sold the rights to commercial forestry corporations to log areas that crossed several officially-designated grizzly bear protection zones.  These auctioned lands are known as the Miller West Fisher area, the Little Beaver area, and the Grizzly area, all located in northwest Montana’s Cabinet Mountains. 

    Because the logging projects include provisions to carve over 14 miles of new roads through occupied habitat of the threatened Cabinet-Yaak grizzly population and also called for the permanent reopening of many miles of existing roads, the logging activities threatened to further displace and harm the fragile Cabinet-Yaak community of approximately 45 bears.

     “Hazards Affecting Grizzly Bear Survival,” a report written by Schwartz, Haroldson, and White in Journal of Wildlife Management, cites the extent of human development within the bears’ habitat range as a critical factor affecting grizzly bear mortality.  Keeping habitat areas off-limits to motorized vehicles and invasive activities promotes grizzly survival, while opening access roads for logging, hunters and other recreationists causes grizzly populations to decline. 

    Belying its own studies on grizzly bear decline and its publicly-sanctioned charter to protect this endangered population, the Kootenai branch of the United States Forest Service, headed by Paul Bradford, has claimed that commercial logging activity will not endanger grizzly bear populations.

    The AWR challenged USFS’ plans to permit logging of these areas and in June won a temporary restraining order preventing the start of logging until the case was decided.

    United States District Judge Donald W. Malloy of Missoula, Montana ruled on June 29, 2010 that the USFS must put aside its contracts with logging corporations until it has addressed those deficiencies in project analyses regarding the effects of logging on protected grizzly bear habitats. 

    The ruling is not only a victory for AWR and the Cabinet-Yaak grizzlies, but an important win for all species inhabiting USFS lands. Judges like Malloy are taking a stand for the environment, ironically in opposition to that government agency—the United States Forest Service–to which the American people have entrusted stewardship of our most valuable, and vulnerable, national resources. 

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