USFS to solicit timber bids
The U.S. Forest Service will be able to solicit bids for commercial thinning on its 50,200-acre Mission Restoration Project in the Libby Creek area, now that the conservation group that challenged the project in federal court has decided not to appeal the judge’s December dismissal of the case.
In the suit, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies contended that the Forest Service hadn’t adequately analyzed the potential for the Mission Project to harm endangered fish and habitat for deer and grizzly bears. The alliance, which filed the lawsuit against the Forest Service in 2019, contended that the agency failed to look explicitly at the environmental impacts of logging, but instead combined them with the effects of restoration.
The Forest Service countered that the alliance hadn’t proven that the agency hadn’t fulfilled its obligations to protect wildlife habitat and the environment. The judge agreed and dismissed the entire lawsuit.
The Methow Valley Ranger District is planning to put a commercial timber sale out for bid this summer, District Ranger Chris Furr said. It will combine two areas analyzed for commercial thinning, in the Libby Creek and Buttermilk Creek drainages. The district can combine proceeds to finance other restoration work in the Mission Project area, he said.
The district also intends to lay out noncommercial thinning units to be ready for potential funding opportunities next year. This year the district will continue installing beaver dam analogues and will finalize design of a culvert for the passage of aquatic organisms, Furr said. The culvert will be installed through a partnership with the Colville Confederated Tribes and Trout Unlimited.
Last year, several conservation groups filed briefs in court supporting the Forest Service, saying the project uses science to identify badly degraded areas and then restore ecological resilience. The alliance contended that the project favors commercial timber logging, not critical wildlife habitat, and that it would turn the forest into a tree farm.
The Mission Project was designed by the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative, which includes the Forest Service, conservation groups and the timber industry.