The controversy over the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail’s (PNT) route through grizzly bear habitat in the Yaak Valley is headed to court. The Yaak Valley Forest Council filed the lawsuit Friday claiming that the U.S. Forest Service failed to evaluate the impacts of the trail on grizzly populations.
The roughly 1,200-mile Pacific Northwest Trail, not to be confused with the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, would wind from Glacier National Park to the coast of Washington State.
Some have hiked the entire trail. Some sections follow established tread, while large sections are unmarked and covers rugged terrain, including the Yaak Valley, where grizzly bear numbers are relatively low.
The Yaak Valley Forest Council, a grizzly-focused environmental group based in the Kootenai National Forest, prefers an alternative route to the south near Libby. The group filed a lawsuit over the current route in the U.S. District Court in Missoula on Aug. 23.
The suit argues that the Forest Service did not properly evaluate the impact the route would have on threatened grizzlies in the Yaak Valley. It also says the management plan for PNT was not issued within a two-year timeline after Congress designated the trail in 2009.
The advisory group in charge of laying the groundwork for that plan is currently not meeting. The Yaak Valley Forest Council is asking the court to require the Forest Service create the PNT management plan on an expedited timeline and to prevent the agency from “advertising” the trail’s route until it’s conducted a NEPA analysis.
Requests for comment from the Yaak Valley Forest Council were not returned in time for this story. The Forest Service declined to comment citing the ongoing litigation.