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September 17, 2002

Last modified September 17, 2002 - 1:53 am

Appeals court blocks Gallatin logging
Appeals court blocks Gallatin logging
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A federal appeals court on Monday blocked a plan to log 226 acres in Montana's Gallatin National Forest.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the federal government must do more environmental studies before the so-called Darroch-Eagle timber sale near Yellowstone National Park can proceed.

Environmentalists said the decision likely means that logging won't occur on the land.

"Our goal was to prevent destruction of grizzly bear habitat. Looks like we've succeeded," said John Amsden, an attorney for environmental groups who sued.

The decision overturns U.S. District Judge Jack D. Shanstrom.

Katherine J. Barton, who argued the case for the Justice Department, declined comment.

The appeals court, based in San Francisco, said the government approved the logging plan although it violates local rules limiting the amount of miles of logging roads.

Also, the court said the government did not adequately review the plight of grizzlies, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Environmental studies said grizzlies would be displaced by logging in the area. But the government did not take into account the effects of a nearby sheep grazing area on the bears.

Environmental group Bear Creek Council said the government should have analyzed whether displaced bears would migrate into sheep fields, which puts bears in jeopardy of being killed by sheep owners.

The court's action blocks any logging until new environmental studies are conducted.

The Darroch-Eagle timber sale is one of 11 planned by the U.S. Forest Service to provide funding to acquire about 55,000 acres of privately held land within the Gallatin National Forest.

The case is Native Ecosystems Council v. Dombeck, 01-35827.

Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright © The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises.

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