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Montana news about the environment, natural resources, wildlife, climate change and more.

Judge blocks logging project in the Kootenai over grizzly bear, climate concerns

Kootenai National Forest sign.
Josh Burnham

A federal judge has blocked what would have been a decade-long project logging nearly 4,000 acres in northwest Montana.

Federal district court judge Donald Molloy ruled Thursday to halt the Black Ram logging project in the Kootenai National Forest. Molloy cited concerns over grizzly bear conservation, and the project’s contributions to climate change.

The project would have included logging in areas with trees ranging from 100-180 years old. Ted Zukoski, with the Center for Biological Diversity, says Molloy’s ruling means the U.S. Forest Service cannot overlook the impacts of climate change when cutting these older trees or clear-cutting swaths of forest.

The trees themselves and the roots are carbon based life forms,” Zukoski said. “They're storing significant amounts of carbon there and they're continuing to suck carbon out of the air. And if you cut down those trees, their ability to store carbon goes away.”

Local conservation groups like the Yaak Valley Forest Council and Alliance for the Wild Rockies along with the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians originally challenged the federal agency’s approval of the project last June.

The now-blocked logging project would also have affected portions of habitat for the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear population, which has faced declines in recent years. According to data from the University of Montana there are 30 to 40 bears in the Cabinet-Yaak population.

Ellis Juhlin is MTPR's Rocky Mountain Front reporter. Ellis previously worked as a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a reporter at Yellowstone Public Radio. She has a Master's Degree in Ecology from Utah State University. She's an average birder and wants you to keep your cat indoors. She has two dogs, one of which is afraid of birds.
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