A logging project expected to begin this month in Idaho's Panhandle National Forest has been stopped by a federal judge.

The 2,000-acre project is intended to protect the forest from fire, insect and disease pressures, primarily through commercial thinning.

U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge has permanently enjoined timber sales within the project area until the U.S. Forest Service completes a more detailed environmental review of the plan.

The agency violated environmental laws in approving the project due to a "flawed" analysis of how logging will impact sensitive forest species, including the pileated woodpecker, the northern goshawk and the marten, the judge said.

The U.S. Forest Service finished its previous review of the project -- known as an environmental impact statement -- in 2008, after about five years of study.

An environmental group, the Lands Council, challenged the agency's decision in court last year, ultimately resulting in the current injunction.

-- Mateusz Perkowski

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