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FWS is headed back to court over road-building in Flathead National Forest

Grizzly bear. Stock photo.
Grizzly bear. Stock photo.

Conservation groups are suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its assessment of the Flathead National Forest’s road-building policy in grizzly bear and bull trout habitat.

Last year, the U.S. District Court in Missoula ordered FWS to reevaluate its 2018 biological opinion which stated that the way in which the Flathead National Forest closed roads didn’t threaten grizzly bears and bull trout.

Both animals are protected under the Endangered Species Act, and roads are known to restrict movement of grizzlies and impact stream quality for bull trout.

During last year’s case, Friends of the Wild Swan and the Swan View Coalition argued that closing roads by blocking entrances with logs or boulders allowed continued use by off-road vehicles, and the court agreed.

The conservation groups are taking FWS back to court over its revised opinion issued earlier this year. The groups say the revised opinion still allows the U.S. Forest Service to build more roads while ineffectively closing others.

FWS declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Aaron Bolton is Montana Public Radio's Flathead Valley reporter.