KEITH RIDLER, Capital Press 6/8/12
Idaho (AP) -- A federal judge has halted a 7,000-acre
eastern Idaho logging project in potential lynx habitat near
Yellowstone National Park after finding the U.S. Forest
Service failed to follow federal laws intended to safeguard
District Magistrate Judge Candy Dale's decision Wednesday
following a lawsuit by environmental groups over the Split
Creek timber harvest also affects about 390,000 additional
acres in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.
thrilled," said Mike Garrity, executive director of the
Alliance for the Wild Rockies. "This is going to protect a
lot of habitat that is very important to the recovery of
Native Ecosystems Council also took part in the lawsuit
filed in May 2011 in U.S. District Court in Idaho
challenging a decision by federal forest managers to cut
lodgepole pines in the 7,000-acre tract the groups said
includes important habitat for threatened lynx.
7,000 acres were part of nearly 400,000 acres designated as
lynx habitat in 2001. But the Forest Service in 2005 created
a new map that removed that land as lynx habitat, opening it
ruled the agency's failure to conduct an environmental
impact statement as required by the National Environmental
Policy Act when creating the 2005 map meant decisions based
on the map are invalid.
said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2009 erred when
agreeing with the Forest Service in a biological assessment
that logging the areas wouldn't jeopardize the lynx or its
habitat. She said the biological assessment was based on the
invalid 2005 map, making the decision a violation of the
Endangered Species Act.
Court finds that the Forest Service's failure to prepare an
Environmental Impact Statement for a decision that
ultimately opened approximately 400,000 acres of previously
protected land to precommercial thinning violated NEPA,"
Dale wrote. "Moreover, like a house of cards built on an
unsound foundation, because the 2005 map was not analyzed
under NEPA, the agency's analysis under the ESA -- which is
based upon the validity of the 2005 map -- cannot withstand
50-page decision she ordered both federal agencies to
reconsider their decisions based on her findings.
still processing the ruling and what it might mean," said
Miel Corbett, spokeswoman for Fish and Wildlife. "We'll be
able to comment at a later time."
Silvey, forester for the Caribou-Targhee National Forest,
didn't return a call from The Associated Press on Thursday.
compare in size to bobcats but are equipped with longer legs
and bigger paws, making them more efficient hunters in the
deep snow of the boreal forests where they live. A decade
ago, the species was deemed a threat for extinction across
the lower 48 states based on climate change, timber
harvests, expansion of ski areas and off-road vehicles.
hares are a key source of food for Lynx in the winter. The
two Montana-based environmental groups argued that
commercial thinning of the forests as planned in the Split
Creek timber project would remove ground cover needed by
snowshoe hare, and as a result eliminate the area as lynx
Commercial thinning can help produce more profitable timber
essentially want a tree farm," Garrity said. "It makes saw
federal agencies have several options, including appealing
Dale's decision or creating an environmental impact
statement, a process that typically requires several years