Environmentalists failed to show harm to lynx, judge says

A 7,000-acre thinning project in an Idaho national forest can proceed despite environmentalist allegations it will destroy habitat of the threatened Canada lynx.

A federal judge refused to block harvest of overstocked lodgepole pine within the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, ruling that environmentalists failed to demonstrate the activity would irreparably harm the protected species.

The project area currently has about 500 to 13,000 trees per acre, which would be reduced to an average 360 trees per acre over several years.

The Canada lynx, which is related to the slightly smaller bobcat, has been federally protected as a threatened species in many Western states since 2000.

The species is highly dependent for food on the snowshoe hare, which has been affected by timber management and fire suppression, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Native Ecosystem Council and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies challenged the U.S. Forest Service's thinning project because they claimed it would degrade hare habitat.

Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale found that such harm would not be significant and denied the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction against the project, which is now in its second year.

-- Mateusz Perkowski

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