The Tribune’s article on Nov. 18 about the Lewis and Clark National Forest left out some important details and readers deserve to know why the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystems Council went to court to protect the Little Belt Mountains from the proposed “Hazardous Trees Reduction Project.”---
Update, 19 November, 12:49 MST: The Missoulian editorial board holds its collective nose and urges cooperation on the passage of Sen. Tester's bill.
Senator Jon Tester's reelection in Montana is fanning the wildfire between those believing that tree thinning would stop major conflagrations and those protecting the oldest forests from the Anthropocene.
Karl Puckett of the Great Falls Tribune met with the combatants, compiled the results and composed a #longread. Here is a splice:
Native Ecosystems Council and Alliance for the Wild Rockies, frequent foes of the vegetation treatment projects, say the plans to reduce the threats threaten wildlife that live in the old-growth forest, such as goshawk, a bird of prey. There are 30 active lawsuits in the region — 18 filed in fiscal year 2012 — involving agency decisions, including two cases in the Great Falls-based Lewis and Clark National Forest that don’t include appeals occurring at the administrative level.
A third lawsuit in the local forest is being considered. In September, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed the Lewis and Clark forest a victory, upholding a previous ruling by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy that a fuels-reduction project south of Stanford called Ettien Ridge would have no significant impact on wildlife. In the Ettien Ridge decision, a three-judge panel in Seattle ruled the Forest Service completed the required “hard look” at the environmental impact of the burning and logging on elk hiding cover and goshawk populations as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.
Under “categorical exclusion,” certain categories of work can be excluded from more in-depth environmental review. The work, a combination of prescribed fire and mechanical thinning of the forest, is meant to reduce the fire risk to cabins, forest in-holdings and a missile site and also improve the diversity of tree species and age classes.Support your favorite environmental lawyers with a donation today.