Clearcutting Plan On The Doorstep Of Yellowstone National Park Threatens Grizzly Bear Recovery Area & Old-Growth Forests

Conservation groups last week challenged a U.S. Forest Service plan to clearcut more than 5,500 acres of pine forests just outside Yellowstone National Park, in the Custer Gallatin National Forest. The plan also calls for logging across an additional 9,000 acres and bulldozing up to 56 miles of roads in the area, including through old-growth forests.

In their objection to the South Plateau project, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and WildEarth Guardians said the logging project will destroy habitat for grizzly bears, lynx, marten and other wildlife. It will bulldoze through old-growth forests and remove thousands of acres of mature pine trees.

The plan is moving forward despite its incongruence with President Biden’s pledge to protect old-growth and mature forests and trees.

“The Yellowstone ecosystem is a national treasure that’s vital to so many plants and animals. It deserves protection, not destruction,” said Kristine Akland, Northern Rockies regional director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This reckless project will hurt grizzlies, lynx and other wildlife, and it’ll harm the climate. We’ll do everything possible to stop the Forest Service from clearcutting and bulldozing its way through these beautiful backcountry forests.”

The project would remove trees more than a century old, which provide wildlife habitat and store significant amounts of carbon — a key component of addressing the climate emergency.

“Mature and old-growth forests are essential to help address both the climate and extinction crises,” said Bonnie Rice, national wildlife campaign manager for Sierra Club. “This misguided logging project on Yellowstone’s doorstep undercuts the Biden administration’s climate, forest and wildlife commitments, and seriously threatens grizzly bear recovery by bulldozing roads and clearcutting in a highly used, designated grizzly recovery area.”

Maps released after the public comment period ended, show that the project would bulldoze a road through one of the few remaining patches of old-growth forests across the 40,000-acre landscape. The Forest Service failed to disclose any harms to old-growth forests in its environmental review.

“Clearcutting high-elevation lodgepole forests across thousands of acres is not going to improve ecological conditions and will not help protect communities from wildfire as the Forest Service claims,” said Adam Rissien, a rewilding advocate at WildEarth Guardians. “Rather, this is another misguided, old-style timber sale that will undermine the forest’s ability to store carbon.”

The groups say the project violates the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to disclose precisely where and when it would bulldoze roads and carve clearcuts, which makes it impossible for the public to understand the project’s impacts. In November, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency criticized the Forest Service’s analysis, saying it “hampers informed decision-making…and therefore meaningful public participation.”

“The Forest Service needs to drop the South Plateau project and quit cutting old-growth forests,” said Mike Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “Especially clearcutting and bulldozing new logging roads in grizzly habitat on the border of Yellowstone National Park.”

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