Study: Litigation on One Montana Timber Project Cost Community Over $10 Million
Economists from the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and economic research have been attempting to assess the total cost of litigation on a Forest Service project in the Spotted Bear River basin.
Forest Industry Research Director Todd Morgan says the direct costs to government agencies were just under 100,000 dollars, but the cost to the local economy was much higher.
"The potential community impact was well over $10 million and 130 jobs, that's the direct impact, as well as the indirect and induced," Morgan said. "I did learn that talking with the Forest Service folks that were involved with this project that this project, from a litigation and a land management standpoint was very simple."
Despite being a relatively simple project, the Spotted Bear River Project was held up for years by lawsuits by groups like Friends of the Wild Swan and the Swan View Coalition.
"Legal action began in February of 2012, and it ran from February 2012 until it finally came out of litigation in Februrary of 2015," Morgan said. "That's almost three years, it was over 1,000 days that it spent in litigation. Now, not every project goes that long in litigation, and some go longer."
According to the Bureau of Business and Economic Research, between 40 and 50 percent of all planned timber harvest volume in the Northern region ends up tangled by litigation.