A multi-year court battle over the Glacier Loon timber sale in the Swan Valley will continue. The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals is now asking the lower court to decide whether the project needs to be reassessed under different regulations protecting grizzly bears.
When the U.S. Forest Service approved the nearly 1,400-acre Glacier Loon timber sale in 2013, the project near Condon was under strict regulations protecting grizzly bears in the area.
In the 9th circuit’s decision Wednesday, it found that the Forest Service met those standards, but it ruled that a lower court will need to decide whether the project will need to be reassessed by both the Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under shifting regulations.
In 2020, grizzly bear protections in the area will become less stringent for the next several years.
Swan View Coalition is one of the environmental groups that took the Forest Service to court in 2013 and again last year. Chair Keith Hammer says the district court will need to decide if the Forest Service can complete most of the proposed logging in the project area before next year.
“And so they want the Forest Service and the lower court to essentially explain can they actually do that or do they need to go back and reassess the timber sale once it moves into this other window after 2020 where they have to manage bears differently in that next 10 years or so.”
Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber also called the ruling favorable, but wouldn’t comment in detail on whether the project would need to be reassessed. “Because we’re still sorting through exactly how we’re going to respond to that part of the ruling. In general, it’s something we can resolve and move forward.”
The court did rule in the Forest Service’s favor on other aspects of the case. It found that the agency did not need to assess the nearby Beaver Creek and Tenmile projects in conjunction with the Glacier Loon sale. It also found that it properly consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service on the project’s impacts to grizzly bears and wolverines.
The Beaver Creek project is still being litigated before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.