Enviro groups contend forest rules contradict Montana judge's order

July 29, 2003

By the Associated Press
The Missoulian

WASHINGTON (AP) - Recent federal rules that allow the government to approve logging without environmental reviews contradict an order from a federal judge in Montana and unfairly limit public comment, conservation groups contend.

The Wilderness Society, American Wildlands and Pacific Rivers Council are suing the Agriculture Department and U.S. Forest Service in U.S. District Court in Missoula, claiming the June rules violate earlier federal laws and a 2002 ruling from U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy.

They are asking for a court order blocking the new rules.

Molloy had blocked the Forest Service from logging thousands of acres of timber burned in 2000 in the Bitterroot National Forest.

The Forest Service argued it needed to restore the burned forest and remove dead trees that could be fuel for future fires. Environmental groups claimed the decision circumvented the agency's own appeals process, and Molloy agreed.

The new rules aim to limit appeals of similar projects nationally. Officials say they will speed the removal of trees and brush from overgrown forests that are prone to major fires.

Molloy ruled against the Forest Service in a different case earlier this month, deciding the service did not follow its own management plan when it approved five timber sales in the Kootenai National Forest of northwestern Montana.


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