The Associated Press
Jan 8, 2002
Judge's Order Halts Logging Plan in Montana's Bitterroot National Forest
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - A federal judge issued a court
order barring the U.S. Forest Service from
logging thousands of acres of burned timber from a
national forest in Montana, saying the agency had
violated its own rules in approving the plan.
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy said Monday the
decision to bypass an internal Forest Service
appeals process was illegal and violated the public's
right to be involved in the decision-making
A coalition of environmental groups sued over the Bush
administration's decision to approve the
controversial logging plan. The proposal would allow
the harvest of about 46,000 acres of burned
timber in the Bitterroot National Forest, 307,000
acres of which was scorched by wildfires in 2000.
The Forest Service maintains its proposal is an effort
to restore the forest. Logging roads would be
closed, trees replanted and the dead trees - a
potential fuel source for future blazes - would be
Environmental groups, however, said the administration
broke the law when Agriculture Undersecretary
Mark Rey approved the plan in December, bypassing the
agency's internal appeals process.
Molloy said the logging plan may not move ahead until
the Forest Service complies with its
established appeals process.
Montana's U.S. Attorney Bill Mercer, who represented
the Forest Service in the dispute, was not
immediately available for comment.
Doug Honnold, an attorney for Earthjustice, a Bozeman
environmental defense group that headed the
lawsuit against the Forest Service, said he was
thrilled with Molloy's ruling, but disappointed the
case ended up in court.
"We regret that we had to haul the Forest Service into
court to follow its own rules," he said. "But
this end-run by that agency on the appeals process and
trying to shut the public out was a dangerous
precedent to attempt."