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Missoula judge halts Lolo forest logging plan, citing habitat concerns

Lolo National Forest
Lolo National Forest

A U.S. District Court judge in Missoula has stopped a logging project on the Lolo National Forest, saying it didn’t follow the forest’s management plan.

The U.S. Forest Service signed off on the roughly 10,000-acre Soldier-Butler Project in the Ninemile Ranger District last year. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies quickly sued over the logging project, arguing that it didn’t follow sections of the Lolo National Forest’s management plan regarding elk habitat.

“They weren’t retaining enough trees for elk security cover, and the Forest Service’s response was that they are not required to follow the forest plan," Alliance Executive Director Mike Garrity said.

In a ruling issued Tuesday, Missoula District Court Judge Dana Christensen agreed. Christensen halted the project saying the Forest Service needed to remedy that issue and reconsult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on how the use of old logging roads will impact grizzly bears.

Lolo National Forest spokeswoman Kate Jerman says the Forest Service is reviewing the ruling and considering next steps.

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Aaron is Montana Public Radio's Flathead reporter.