Montana Public Radio

Forest Service Drops Appeal Over Road Closure Analysis

Jun 9, 2020

The U.S. Forest Service Tuesday withdrew its appeal of a 2019 court ruling ordering it to examine ineffective closures of temporary logging roads in grizzly bear habitat. The federal agency will continue studying the issue.

The district court ruling from October asked the Forest Service to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine how effective dirt berms are at closing temporary logging roads to motorized use in grizzly bear habitat within the Lolo, Kootenai and Idaho Panhandle national forests. There are federal restrictions on road density in and around grizzly bear habitat management areas.

ATVs on a muddy road. Stock photo.
Credit iStock.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies sued the Forest Service arguing that earthen berms do nothing to prevent motorized use of closed logging roads, which put threatened grizzly bears at risk. The environmental group says many roads are still usable and should count toward road density limits, meaning future road building in some areas should stop until old roadways are effectively closed.

The Forest Service temporarily halted one timber sale last year as a result of the case and in a series of letters, said a total of 37 active commercial and non-commercial projects could be impacted.

In an emailed statement Tuesday, the agency would not say whether additional projects have been impacted. The Forest Service says it expects to be done consulting with the Fish and Wildlife Service on the impact of ineffective road closures this summer.