A federal judge has rejected claims made by environmental groups that post-fire logging projects in the Columbia Falls and Hungry Horse areas violated road-density standards for grizzly bear habitat. U. S. District Judge Donald Molloy issued a ruling Monday striking down all claims made in the 2005 lawsuit filed by the Swan View Coalition and Friends of the Wild Swan. He said the Flathead National Forest's road-density rules shouldn't be interpreted so strictly that they would stop projects that would improve grizzly bear habitat. Prevailing were the national forest, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and several western Montana loggers and lumber mills that intervened in the case. "It's a big decision," said Joe Krueger, the Flathead Forest's environmental litigation coordinator. "It proves that what the forest has been doing is lawful. It validates that we have followed all the laws and regulations." The two environmental groups did not challenge timber harvesting involved with the West Side Reservoir and Robert-Wedge post-fire projects, however they argued the projects violated road density standards for grizzly bear habitat security and the Endangered Species Act. The salvage projects included "site-specific" amendments to the Flathead's long-term forest plan, allowing for deviations from numeric road density standards that were adopted in 1995. A 31,600-acre area was burned by fires west of Hungry Horse Reservoir in 2003 while the Robert and Wedge fires burned 34,649 acres north of Columbia Falls. Forest officials said the deviations to the road density rules were necessary for several reasons, including the need to maintain access to popular recreation sites and private lands. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reviewed the projects and determined that the deviations would not cause grizzly bear deaths. "The improvements to grizzly bear habitat that will result from the scheduled implementation of the challenged projects are not illusory the projects will create more habitat for grizzlies in the affected sub-units than existed prior to implementation," the ruling states. "The plaintiffs advocate an aspirational conception of the existing situation that would lead to a perverse outcome in which the service must reject a project that improves conditions because it does not improve them enough," he wrote. A telephone message seeking comment from the Swan View Coalition was not immediately returned. AP Information from: Daily Inter Lake, http://www.dailyinterlake.com.