AFRC Applauds U.S. District Court Decision Allowing North Hebgen Project to Proceed

The American Forest Resource Council (AFRC) applauds the U.S. District Court of Montana’s decision lifting its injunction and allowing the U.S. Forest Service to proceed with the North Hebgen Multiple Resource Project on the Custer-Gallatin National Forest. AFRC intervened in litigation on behalf of Sun Mountain Lumber of Deer Lodge, Montana, who purchased two of the three timber sales associated with the project.

The North Hebgen Project spans 5,670 acres on the national forest, abutting the western edge of Yellowstone National Park. Eighty percent of the project is in a designated Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) area with critical infrastructure, including powerlines, as well as hundreds of structures.

The project reduces the risks of wildfire in the WUI by thinning overstocked forests and promotes species diversity by enhancing aspen and whitebark pine stands.  It also provides the public with improved access while reducing human-grizzly interactions near the Rainbow Point Campground, one of the busiest in the Forest Service’s Northern Region.  The project is expected to take eight to 12 years to implement.

Opponents of the project have worked to stall and block the forest health project through litigation since 2018, bringing a number of claims under the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act. With the June 9 ruling, the U.S. District Court determined the Forest Service’s Supplemental Information Report and Biological Assessment now comply with all environmental laws and the judge has lifted his injunction.

“We are pleased with the court’s ruling allowing this forest health project to proceed,” said AFRC Staff Attorney Sara Ghafouri.  “As wildfires become larger and more severe, it is important to accelerate forest treatments near homes and essential infrastructure.  The North Hebgen Project not only protects communities near the Custer-Gallatin National Forest, it provides benefits to wildlife and recreation.  It also provides wood fiber to support local jobs and the economy.”