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Logging project near Libby temporarily halted due to grizzly bear habitat concerns

Yaak Bears Screen Shot 2022-06-19 at 1.34.19 PM.png
Posted at 3:53 PM, Jun 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-20 11:34:48-04

LIBBY — LIBBY - A preliminary injunction was recently issued for the Rippley Logging Project stopping all ground-disturbing work in the project area in the Cabinet-Yaak Mountains southeast of Libby.

“The Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear population is one of the smallest, most isolated grizzly populations in the United States," said The Alliance for the Wild Rockies Executive Director Mike Garrity.

The grizzly population in this area has been declining and is now down to only 45 bears.

“So you know, it's—it's, it's insane. They’re doing the same strategy over and over again and getting the same result, fewer and fewer grizzly bears,” said Garrity.

The project would include five square miles of clearcut, 17 square miles of thinning, and 30 miles of new logging roads.

The main concern conservationists like Garrity have for the grizzlies are the roads. Garrity says a majority of grizzlies that are shot are shot within 500 yards of a road.

“I just want to emphasize I think it's insane what the Forest Service is doing. They're losing money destroying habitat for a species that is at risk of going extinct. It just doesn't make common sense," said Garrity.

Although some say this logging project could cause problems for the grizzlies, the owner and guide for Yaak River Outfitters says that he sees more animals in places that have been logged than in dense overgrown parts of the forest.

“The following year, there's all kinds of growth within the understory because it's been thinned out enough. And that's where all of the animals that Grizzlies ultimately feed on live. My personal experience has been that the Forest Service has no interest in laying waste to grizzly habitat," said Seth Moore, Yaak River Outfitters owner and guide.

Moore has encountered many grizzlies in his time in the Yaak.

“And for me, it's an amazing encounter. Lots of people don't get to have that experience. I loved seeing it and I love that they're on the landscape. And I wouldn't want there to be conditions created by logging or any other, anything else that would ultimately have a negative effect on the population," said Moore.

The Rippley logging project is currently at a standstill due to the preliminary injunction and will be until the summary judgment is issued. There is no scheduled date for the summary judgment to be determined.