Challenge of the Flathead National Forest Plan in Federal Court
A challenge to Flathead National Forest Plan by several environmental groups was heard Thursday before Federal Judge Donald Molloy in US District Court in Missoula.
Marla Fox, lawyer Guardians of the Savage Land explained the reason for the legal challenge.
âThe forest operated on a 1986 plan with modifications, and then they revised that plan in 2018,â Fox said. “This plan will really set the master plan for the forest for if not several decades, then more than 15 years at least.”
Fox detailed his organization’s opposition to the plan.
âThe challenge was specifically about the elements of the road density plan and some of the winter motorized travel aspects of the plan,â she said. âVery specific aspects of the plan that are much broader and cover a lot of things, but we were questioning those aspects because of the impacts on grizzly bears and bull trout.â
Fox said their objections stemmed from the fact that they felt the road plans were not as rigorous as they had been in the past.
âOne of the big concerns is that the Forest Service made the political decision to adopt road conditions starting in 2011 because the grizzly bear, at least in the northern ecosystem of Continental Divide, appears to be on a decent trajectory. She said. âHowever, we are concerned because the reason it was working so well was the elements of the road plan that brought the grizzly to this point. Where these more stringent, scientifically supported road standards are more protective, to have less road construction on the forest. “
Fox would not speculate on Judge Molloy’s upcoming ruling, but noted he was paying close attention to their arguments and concerns about grizzly bear habitat.
âIt was really good to see Judge Molloy asking the probing questions,â she said. “He was really concerned about the remedy, what might happen if he governed in a certain way, which I take a good indication that he is considering the implications of his decision, both on the species and also on the these logging projects. planned for the Flathead, some of which are already underway.
Fox said she expects a ruling from Judge Molloy in the coming weeks.
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