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Judge lifts timber sale injunction

| August 27, 2004 12:00 AM

An injunction halting several timber sales on the Kootenai National Forest was lifted last Friday by a federal judge in Missoula.

U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy lifted the injunction on five projects on the Kootenai National Forest, allowing timber sales under contract to resume.

³I am pleased with the Court¹s decision,² said Kootenai Forest Supervisor Bob Castaneda. ³The decision allows us to proceed with important forest health treatments, fire salvage and watershed restoration activities. The work will benefit the environment and provide employment in our hard-pressed communities.²

Molloy ruled that the Kootenai National Forest had complied with the requirements of last year¹s ruling, the product of a lawsuit filed in 2002 by the Ecology Center of Missoula and the Spokane-based Lands Council.

The injunction, which sparked considerable anger in Lincoln County, halted five project decisions on the forest, including the Pinkham, White Pine, Kelsey Beaver, Pink Stone, and Gold-Boulder-Sullivan timber sales.

The Kootenai Forest was directed to provide an opportunity for public comment on information and analysis regarding the amount of old growth on the forest. Kootenai officials completed the work and submitted the information to the district court.

Last November, Congress passed the 2004 Appropriations Act, which included Section 407 written by Senator Conrad Burns. The section required the Secretary of Agriculture to review public comments and decide whether or not to modify the decisions for the five timber sales. The environmental groups promptly filed a motion alleging that Section 407 was unconstitutional.

In his recent decision, Molloy ruled the Kootenai National Forest had fulfilled the requirements of his previous order and demonstrated the forest contains 10-percent old growth. He also ruled that the Burns rider was constitutional.

³The sales under contract have 7 million board feet remaining and we can now begin to move forward with continued implementation of these projects by the end of this year,² Castaneda said.