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

Court backs conservation groups in case over roads in grizzly habitat

Grizzly bear. Stock photo.

A federal district court has found that agencies did not fully consider the impact roads have on wildlife when drafting management plans for the Flathead National Forest.

Conservation advocacy groups Swan View Coalition and Friends of the Swan sued the Flathead National Forest, along with federal management agencies for violating the Endangered Species Act in the 2018 Forest Management Plan.

U.S. District Court of Montana Judge Dana Christensen ruled in favor of the conservation groups’ claims that the plan does not sufficiently consider how roads affect grizzly bears and bull trout — even when they’re closed.

The judge supported the groups’ claims that illegal motorized vehicle use happens on closed roads, displacing bears and causing run-off that harms bull trout. Research has shown that roads negatively affect bears through collisions or as a barrier to habitat connectivity.

The ruling does not grant the groups’ request to pause logging projects or associated road building, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reevaluates the plan. In the future, the Flathead Forest may have to change its work depending on what the federal agency finds.

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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