Illegal roadwork and logging performed by Tom Maclay last winter on National Forest lands abutting his property have resulted in a civil lawsuit the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed Tuesday, Jan. 24. Maclay, who’s in the process of developing his 3,000-acre ranch near Lolo Peak into a major ski area, and who’s asked the Forest Service for permission to carve runs on public land, allegedly constructed seven new roads and reopened seven roads that had been closed, cutting down about 400 trees in the process. Maclay also cut trees within the Carlton Ridge Research Natural Area (RNA), a permanently protected 920-acre area home to a rare hybrid between western and alpine larch, according to the complaint.
Last March, David Blair, then-communications director for the Bitterroot Resort, told the Independent that Maclay had performed “trail widening” as part of longstanding regular maintenance work conducted by the Carlton Creek Irrigation Company (CCIC) in relation to its water rights to Little Carlton Lake, which lies within the Bitterroot-Selway Wilderness Area. The Forest Service maintains that CCIC abandoned its right-of-way long ago. But the CCIC, of which Maclay is president, has been battling the Forest Service over that claim, and filed suit against the government in August 2004. That case is still pending, according to Department of Agriculture attorney Alan Campbell.
Tuesday’s illegal logging allegations against Maclay resulted from reports the Stevensville Ranger District received from hikers in the area who ran into Maclay’s workers and a snow-grooming machine on public land. Maclay did not return calls by press time regarding the allegations, but the government says in its complaint that Maclay has admitted the actions for Forest Service workers.
The government is seeking to block further trespass by Maclay, as well as restitution money for restoring the area, though Assistant U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme says no cost estimate for the damages has yet been developed.