By Lyndsie Kiebert
A judge ruled in favor of the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in a lawsuit June 4 filed by a number of environmental groups that argued the Bog Creek Road project would harm grizzly bear recovery on the Idaho-Canada border in Boundary County.
The project, proposed in 2018, is meant to improve east-west access to the U.S.-Canada border across the Selkirk Mountains for Border Patrol agents.
Despite allegations by the plaintiffs — which included the Center for Biological Diversity, Idaho Conservation League, Lands Council, Selkirk Conservation Alliance and WildEarth Guardians — U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill found that reopening Bog Creek Road would not alter the core area of the Blue-Grass Bear Management Unit, and would in fact improve bear habitat in the areas where the USFS plans to decommission roads as part of the overall project.
“While the project may reduce connectivity with Canada, it will also improve connectivity to the Trapper Creek burn area and other [Bear Management Units] south of the Blue-Grass BMU, which will be beneficial for grizzly bears,” Winmill stated in the decision.
The judge also called the plaintiffs’ assertion that the USFS “failed to analyze the extent to which the project will impact bear recovery” under the Endangered Species Act a “contention … without merit.”
According to the opinion: “The Final [Environmental Impact Statement] took a hard look at road use in the Blue-Grass BMU and the Forest Service considered ways to accommodate both administrative needs with grizzly bear needs.”
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