Limestone West timber sale hearing results in no ruling

Posted at 2:46 PM, Feb 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-20 17:49:59-05

BOZEMAN – Save Our Gallatin Front (SOGF)filed a lawsuit against the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) and the Montana Land Board for the approval of a timber sale in the Limestone West area, south of Bozeman between Mt. Ellis and Triple Tree Trail.

The hearing happened Tuesday in Gallatin County District Court.

“Save our Gallatin Front is a local grassroots community organization that has come together to find an alternative to the Limestone West Logging Project. We’re not an anti-logging group we just feel in this situation the public would be better served if the Limestone West area were not to be logged,” said President of Save Our Gallatin Front, Tim Tousignant.

SOGF argues that the Limestone West area is the last piece of wild, undisturbed forest land that extends from the edge of the Gallatin Valley all the way to Yellowstone National Park.

The DNRC allowed SOGF to obtain a conservation license that would allow them to bid against the other timber companies to preserve the land, though the license comes with specific guidelines.

In order to acquire the license, SOGF must pay the entire stumpage value of the trees involved in the sale and the conservation license protects the trees for 25 years.

If a timber company were to have the highest bid, they would pay the equivalent stumpage fee and the forest would take 90 to 100 years to grow back if it were to be logged.

The DNRC argues that the trees in the area are dying due to an infestation of the mountain pine beetle.

“The proceeding went well, again I think both sides had the opportunity to put their information forth in front of the judge, I think we had a great opportunity to do that and you know that’s the best you can hope for. The judge asked very good penetrating questions so she’s very engaged into the case itself which is also good so we’re optimistic that we’ll get a favorable ruling,” Tousignant said.

Judge Rienne McElyea plans to make a ruling by the planned auction date of March 5th.

The DNRC told MTN news they decline to comment on the lawsuit and the hearing until there is a ruling.

Reporting by Emma Hamilton for MTN News