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Environmental Groups Sue to Stop Huge Tongass Timber Sale
Rep. Young Expresses Disgust Over Logjam Lawsuit


January 12, 2010

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - Three environmental groups sued the Forest Service in Federal District Court in Anchorage Monday, challenging the Logjam timber sale project on Alaska's Tongass National Forest. The plaintiffs - Tongass Conservation Society, Greenpeace, and Cascadia Wildlands - are asking the court to cancel the 3,422 acre timber project on Prince of Wales Island. The project would log 73 million board feet of timber and build 22 miles of new roads.

The project area is 60 miles northwest of Ketchikan, Alaska, near the community of Coffman Cove on Prince of Wales Island. The project area encompasses over 56,000 acres but the record of decision only allows timber harvest on up to 3,400 acres within the area. It is projected that timber harvest from these units will provide between 251 and 356 jobs over the life of the project.

The lawsuit claims the Forest Service grossly failed to consider the project's impacts on deer, wolves, and salmon. It asks the court to vacate the agency's decision to proceed with the project, including the project's recently offered Diesel Timber Sale.

In a prepared statement, Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) said, "The ink is barely dry on the final offering and already these groups are chomping at the bit to destroy production and prosperity,"

Young said, "Over the last few decades I have watched the timber industry go from 15,000 jobs to nothing. Big corporations are already gone, and now we are fighting over this minute timber sale which will keep a small family owned mill in business. Unfortunately, as always seems to be the case with these extremists, fundraising goals come before the good of the people. These groups are disgraceful and will stop at nothing to ensure that Alaska remains a playground for the wealthy."

Young said, "This sale is already in a roaded area, lessening any environmental impact. Additionally, the Alaska Forest Association offered to compromise on the area, and to find an agreement that would make all parties happy, but these groups are not interested in any sort of compromise, and not interested in the well-being of the local people." Young said, "Somehow these individuals have become indifferent to the best interests of their fellow man, and that's sad. I will work to do whatever I can to ensure that this project continues on as intended, and to ensure that Alaskans are able to work, and provide for themselves and their families."

Much of Prince of Wales Island, including the Logjam area, has been heavily logged and roaded already say the plaintiffs - Tongass Conservation Society, Greenpeace, and Cascadia Wildlands.

"The Forest Service has not honestly confronted the project's impacts to deer and salmon," said Carol Cairnes, President of the Ketchikan-based Tongass Conservation Society. "I explored these groves this fall, and the forest they want to cut is largely the buffers that have previously been left. Those buffers are a must for wildlife, both for habitat and as migration corridors. Without this old-growth, the deer have little shelter in the winter. Then the wolves are short on prey, and people are short on subsistence meat."

Gabe Scott of Cascadia Wildlands said, "Salmon are more of an economic backbone than timber. Roads, especially badly maintained ones, are salmon killers. There are 25 of what they call 'red culverts'-culverts that block salmon passage-that exclude 14 miles of upstream habitat in this specific project area. Rather than do the maintenance, they're spending the money to build even more roads. And they're $20 million in the hole already maintaining roads on Prince of Wales Island."

The wolf subspecies here is the Alexander Archipelago wolf. It is genetically distinct and is unique to Southeast Alaska. Larry Edwards of Greenpeace said, "The region's most important wolf population is put at risk by the Logjam project's logging and road building. The project will both suppress the population of deer (the wolves' primary prey) and increase the density of roads beyond acknowledged danger levels. The Forest Service avoided an honest appraisal of that in its EIS."

The Logjam project has been particularly contentious. Last summer, several other environmental groups offered to compromise if the Forest Service would halve the project's timber volume. Tongass Supervisor Forrest Cole instead chose one of the two alternatives that maximized timber volume. The plaintiffs in yesterday's case aren't looking for a compromise. Scott said, "The project is ill-conceived, illegal, and should be cancelled."

Edwards said, "The Forest Service has emphasized the importance of this project to the timber industry, but its only hope for justifying the project was to conceal or gloss over several substantial environmental impacts. The fact is, the old-growth in this place has been cut to the bone. There is no way to honestly justify the Logjam timber project, and in trying to push the project through anyway, the EIS had to violate the law. So here we are, at the end of the rope for an unsustainable industry."

Scott added, "The Forest Service decided to approve the export of half the project's timber volume, unprocessed, to the Lower-48 or Asia. Export is the only way the agency could force a positive timber value appraisal. The jobs from Logjam are minimal, yet the project will push the ecosystem to the brink."

Rep. Don Young said the U.S. Forest Service estimates that between 251 to 356 jobs would be provided over the life of the project.

The groups are represented by attorneys from the Crag Law Center and Cascadia Wildlands.



On the Web:

Logjam Timber Sale Information


Sources of News:

Tongass Conservation Society


Cascadia Wildland

Office of Congressman Don Young



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