May 13, 2014 11:42 PM by Dennis Bragg - KPAX News
MISSOULA - A second lawsuit is filed accusing Governor Steve Bullock of holding closed door meetings with a select group to develop a plan to log more than 5 million acres of Forest Service timber.
The suit, filed in Lewis and Clark County District Court, attacks Bullock's nomination for "expedited logging" under provisions of the Congressional Farm Bill last winter.
The Missoula-based WildWest Institute, along with Conservation Congress and Friends of the Bitterroot accuse Bullock of skirting public process.
The groups acknowledge the Farm Bill contains a provision for "treatment areas" that would "allow logging and other management activities" with "reduced public participation and scrutiny over the next 15-years." However, they complain Bullock never gave specifics on how a "collaborative group" helped him develop the logging recommendations.
WildWest and the other plaintiffs say the governor's group met with no public notice and involved a panel of state and county officials, the Montana Wood Products Association, the Montana Logging Association and Blackfoot Challenge among others. The suit claims the Forest Service, DNRC, other state agencies and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition were also part of the meetings in person, or via phone.
The suit accuses Bullock of violating the open meetings law and denying the public a chance to participate. The plaintiffs want the court to order the recommendations of Bullock's group to be set aside, and new public-oriented process to be ordered.
An initial suit was filed by a Bozeman man last month, making similar allegations in Gallatin County court.