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BUTTE — A federal judge has granted environmental groups an injunction in the battle over logging of beetle-damaged trees south of here.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy wrote Friday that he was "reluctantly compelled" to find that the U.S. Forest Service ran afoul of federal environmental laws when it approved the Basin Creek Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project.

The agency failed to produce adequate analysis of soil productivity, and must stop logging near Basin Creek Reservoir until it complies with the law, Molloy said.

R-Y Timber Inc. of Townsend started work on the 2,600-acre project, aimed at reducing wildfire risk, last fall.

Work stopped pending an appeal by the Ecology Center, the Native Ecosystems Council and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies of an earlier decision by Molloy. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals returned the case to Molloy in February.

The environmental groups argued that the work in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest would jeopardize habitat of the black-eyed woodpecker. They wanted the Forest Service to produce a plan to protect that habitat.

Butte-Silver Bow County formally intervened in the suit, saying it was obligated to do what it could to protect houses and Butte's watershed from wildfires.

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