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Judge lifts logging hold on 2 Montana state forests after settlement on grizzly protections


BILLINGS, Montana — A federal judge has approved a settlement between state officials and three conservation groups that allows logging projects in northwest Montana to move forward with added protections for grizzly bears.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy on Friday lifted a 2014 injunction that had barred logging on portions of the Stillwater and Coal Creek state forests.

The settlement prohibits permanent roads within seven "security zones" encompassing 34 square miles. Logging and motorized vehicle use will be allowed only when bears are denning for winter.

The settlement came in a 2013 lawsuit from Friends of the Wild Swan, the Montana Environmental Information Center and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The groups challenged a state conservation plan for state trust land in western Montana, saying it weakened protections for threatened species including grizzlies.

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