Attorney General’s Office, Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to File Amicus Brief in Chessman Reservoir Lawsuit

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen has granted Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) permission to file an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in a lawsuit that seeks to halt a forest-management project aimed at protecting the city of Helena’s municipal water supply and infrastructure.

The Red Mountain Flume Chessman Reservoir Project is intended to improve the health of the forest around the reservoir and protect Helena’s drinking water supply from potential wildfire damage. In June, two environmental groups challenged the project in federal court. The state believes the limited timber harvest proposed by the U.S. Forest Service is in the best interests of forest health and Montana’s citizens.

In their motion filed and approved by Judge Christensen today, Attorney General Fox and the DNRC make it clear that the citizens of Montana have compelling interests in the case that are distinct from those of the defendants and therefore merit a separate amicus brief for the court to consider.

“Montana’s laws and lawmakers have been unambiguous in this matter: when it comes to federal forest management litigation impacting Montana’s public health and safety, forest health, and our economy, the state has a clear interest and its chief legal office ought to be actively involved,” Attorney General Fox said. “Working with DNRC, we will ensure the interests of Montanans are well represented in this important case.”

DNRC Forestry Division Administrator and State Forester Bob Harrington said the decision to litigate the project was disappointing.

“This is a very small, very deliberate forest management project with a goal of protecting Helena’s critical water infrastructure from wildfire,” Harrington said. “There are many organizations and individuals who’ve spent a lot of time working together to develop this project. They understand the benefits, as well as the potential consequences of not implementing it.”

The state’s amicus brief must  be filed by August 13.

• State’s motion for leave to file an amicus brief.
• Judge Christensen’s order granting permission for the state to file an amicus brief.
State’s amicus brief (filed 8/13/14, posted 8/14/14).