Forest Service Sued for Not Protecting Gray Wolves and Other Threatened Species


Gray wolves and other threatened species are not getting enough protection in a Minnesota national forest, Greens claim in a federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit filed in D.C. Federal Court by Earthworks and the Center for Biological Diversity seeks declaratory and injunctive relief.

The defendants are the U.S. Forest Service and its chief, Thomas Tidwell; the U.S. Department of Agriculture; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

In their June 6 complaint, the environmental groups say they are concerned about the fates of the gray wolf, northern long-eared bat and Canada lynx in the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota.

The non-profits claim the government has not ensured that its revised Land and Resource Management Plan for the forest will not destroy the threatened species' habitat.

They are asking a federal judge to find the defendants have violated the Endangered Species Act, and to compel them to initiate a new ESA consultation and biological opinion for the forest plan.

The environmentalists also want the court to halt any projects that would affect the animals until these actions take place.

The Center for Biological Diversity is based in Tucson, Ariz., while Earthworks' headquarters is in Washington, D.C.

According to the plaintiffs, the northern long-eared bat has lost 99 percent of its population in the Northeastern U.S. due to a fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome.

"White-Nose Syndrome has not yet been detected in Minnesota; however, the fungus that causes White-Nose Syndrome has been detected," they claim.

Gray wolves had a population of less than 500 in the Superior National Forest as recently as 2008, according to the lawsuit.

"Direct wolf mortality on the Superior National Forest may result from shooting, trapping, predator control, and vehicle collisions," the plaintiffs asserted.

The Canada lynx is a mid-sized cat with large paws that allow it to hunt in the snow. Minnesota's WNBA franchise is called the Lynx.

"Common causes of mortality for lynx include starvation of kittens and trapping," the plaintiffs stated. "In addition, lynx in Minnesota have been killed by vehicle and train collisions."

The environmentalists are objecting to the an agency biological opinion that stated that the lynx and wolves will not be adversely affected by the forest plan activities.

"These activities include timber harvest, wildlife habitat management, road and trail construction and maintenance, construction and maintenance of recreational facilities, hazardous fuels reduction, and habitat improvement," they wrote.

The plaintiffs noted that the Forest Service responded to their notice to sue by asserting that it lacked authority over trapping and hunting in the forest.

The environmentalists disagreed.

"The Forest Service banned the hunting of gray wolves on the Superior National Forest in 1970, which was in effect until the species was designated as threatened under the ESA," they wrote.

The plaintiffs also stated that the Forest Service could help the threatened species through "effective road closures and environmental education efforts."

Attorneys William Snape, Marc Fink and Anchun Jean Su are representing the plaintiffs.

The U.S. Forest Service did not respond to a request for comment.

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