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Judge halts Lincoln-area forest project over wildlife concerns

The Park Creek Fire perimeter overlaid on top of the Stonewall Vegetation project map.

A federal court has ruled that a logging and prescribed burn project on the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest cannot move forward as proposed. The district judge says the project north of Lincoln didn’t follow the national forest’s own management plan.

Missoula District Court Judge Donald Molloy ruled that the forest service improperly exempted the Stonewall project from management rules aimed at maintaining elk herds in the area.

Molloy also found that the agency failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the project’s impact to grizzly bears as required by the Endangered Species Act.

The Stonewall project was remanded back to the Forest Service so that it can rework the project to comply with the ruling. In a statement, the Forest Service says it’s still reviewing the ruling and the Stonewall project was an important part of its efforts to reduce wildfire risk.

Part of the area within the proposed Stonewall project burned in a 2017 fire.