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Conservation Groups Charge Logging Project Threatens Grizzly Bear Connectivity Zone

An map excerpt of the Soldier-Butler Project area on the Lolo National Forest.
Lolo National Forest
An map excerpt of the Soldier-Butler Project area.

Two conservation groups Friday sued the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over a proposed logging project in the Lolo National Forest on land wildlife managers say is important for grizzly bear connectivity.

The Soldier-Butler Projectwill log and thin about 10,000 acres of forest in the Ninemile area northwest of Missoula. That activity will take place within a strip of land wildlife managers have designated as a key zone that could help grizzly bears connect between the Glacier and Yellowstone-regions. 

Grizzlies are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and wildlife biologists say linking up those two populations of bears is key to the long-term health of the species.

Patty Ames is with the Flathead-Lolo-Bitterroot Citizen Task Force. 

"One of the main things that thwarts female grizzly bears, or grizzly bears period, from moving into the area are roads."

Lawsuits filed by Ames’ organization and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies allege the project will go beyond a limit on roads in National Forests put into place in late 2018 to preserve grizzly habitat. 

But in a biological opinion issued earlier this month, the Fish and Wildlife Service found the project would not adversely impact grizzlies

The Forest Service says the project will harvest about 18 million board feet of timber, and will improve fire resilience in the area. 

Nick Mott is a reporter and podcast producer based in Livingston, Montana.
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