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MISSOULA — A coalition of environmental groups have sued to block a U.S. Forest Service timber sale in the Rexford Ranger District of northwest Montana, claiming the proposed clearcuts would hurt lynx and grizzly bears there.

“In spite of these falling grizzly bear numbers, the Forest Service plans to commercially log thousands of acres, open up roads, and use low-level helicopter flights in occupied grizzly habitat,” said Michael Garrity of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “It’s well-known science that low-level overflights by helicopters harm and harass grizzly bears in violation of the Endangered Species Act. Even though we cited the law, judicial opinions, and the agency’s own policies that ban such activities, the Forest Service refused to listen. So now we’re compelled to go to court.”

The Young Dodge project in the Cabinet-Yaak region of the Kootenai National Forest would log 2,492 acres, do prescribed burning on 3,986 acres, perform maintenance on 97.3 miles of existing road and build 8.85 miles of new roads. It includes several clearcuts of nearly 400 acres in size.

In a March 2012 letter to Kootenai Forest Supervisor Paul Bradford, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said they found the project was not likely to hurt either lynx or grizzly bears.

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The Alliance for the Wild Rockies filed administrative appeals against the project, which Forest Service officials overruled in 2012. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Missoula.

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