A federal judge is forcing environmentalists to back their challenge of a logging project with cold, hard cash.
In November, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy ordered a
halt to logging on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest,
outside of Butte, after three environmental groups appealed the
judge’s earlier decision to allow the 2,600-acre timber
harvest. Then, on Dec. 20, Molloy ordered the groups to post a
$100,000 bond. Should the groups lose their appeal before the 9th
Circuit Court, the money would help compensate the Forest Service
and a private contractor for losses due to the delay, such as
decaying timber. The agency had requested a $400,000 bond.
"We have asked for this kind of accountability for
years," says Ellen Engstedt, executive vice president of the
Montana Wood Products Association. "Ninety-eight percent of these
cases are not legitimate. These groups have nothing to lose."
While bonds up to $10,000 aren’t unusual, one this
size "certainly make(s) you gulp and think twice about the strength
of your case," says Andy Stahl, executive director of Forest
Service Employees for Environmental Ethics.
plaintiffs are being forced to risk bankruptcy just to get into
court, says Michael Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for
the Wild Rockies. His group and the other two — the Ecology
Center and the Native Ecosystems Council — can’t
guarantee such a large bond, he says, and they’ve asked
Molloy to rescind or reduce it: "If we were to put up all our
assets and lose, we would be out of business immediately."