Thursday, January 06, 2011

Coalition sues Forest Service plan

Beaverhead County has joined a coalition of motorized access and other groups to sue the U.S. Forest Service over its revised management plan for the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Forest that calls for more wilderness areas. The county joined nearly 20 groups that include multiple use, motorized access and ranching interests in alleging that the Forest Service tailored its revised plan based on the "partnership" of logging companies and environmental groups that submitted its proposal at the 11th hour. The groups filed the lawsuit recently in Butte federal court. County Commissioner Mike McGinley said the Forest Service's plan included wilderness areas that were never before considered and don't meet the criteria for the highest level of land protection under federal law. And he said the plan, which guides management of the 3.3-million acre forest, was crafted after closed-door meetings between then Beaverhead Forest Supervisor Bruce Ramsey and the partnership members. The plan, which took years to draft, was implemented in January 2010. Since then several trails that were open to motorized vehicles have been closed in areas designated in the plan as recommended wilderness. The groups allege the Forest Service's actions were in violation of several federal laws that require public participation, including the National Environmental Policy Act and National Forest Management Act...more

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