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Commitment to Limit Litigation of Tongass Land Management Plan Secured


June 21, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C.- Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) announced today that an agreement with Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) has been reached to work out a bipartisan compromise that would limit the timeframe in which lawsuits could be filed against the Tongass Land Management Plan (TLMP). A revised TLMP plan is expected to be released later this year.

"Litigation on the Tongass Land Management Plan must end," said Senator Stevens. "This constant litigation has made it next to impossible for the Forest Service to effectively manage the Tongass National Forest, particularly with regard to the Forest's timber program. The never-ending lawsuits prevent hundreds of Alaskans from earning a living from timber harvests and cripple 32 communities in our State that depend on timber receipts. This amendment helps ensure timely court challenge to the Forest Plan, which is fair to the public, the federal government, and the people of Alaska that depend on the Tongass for their livelihoods."

Senator Feinstein, who is the Chairwoman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, offered to assist Senator Stevens on the issue during a markup of the Fiscal Year 2008 Interior Appropriations bill. According to the news release, the commitment was made to Senator Stevens after he proposed an amendment that would have mandated that all lawsuits against a revised TLMP be filed within 60 days from the date the amended plan is issued. The Stevens provision would not have affected environmental review or the right of the public to comment, and would have still allowed the public to appeal the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) through the U.S. Forest Service's administrative process.

The process of developing and revising the current Tongass Land Management Plan (TLMP) has been ongoing since the 1980s. The cost of the plan and subsequent amendments is estimated to be nearly $20 million according to the news release. Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal laws, including responding to appeals and litigation, represents a large portion of this dollar figure.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) for the current Forest Plan were published in 1997. Since then, there have been 33 appeals and five lawsuits filed against the plan said Stevens. In 2005, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision regarding two of the lawsuits, effectively overturning the TLMP. On January 12, 2007, the Forest Service published a Draft EIS to amend TLMP in response to the 9th Circuit's decision. The Final EIS and ROD are expected to be complete by September of 2007.



Source of News:

Office of Senator Ted Stevens


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