Federal Judge Sends Logging Project on POW Back to the Drawing Board
Posted & Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN
June 26, 2020
The Forest Service had approved 67 square miles of logging on Prince of Wales Island to be accessed by 164 miles of new roads, including up to 23,000 acres of old-growth forest. The forest supervisor signed off on the final environmental review for the project in March 2019.
The U.S. Forest Service had green-lighted the sweeping 15-year logging plan over a 1.8-million-acre project area across Prince of Wales and surrounding islands, part of a program named the Prince of Wales Landscape Level Analysis.
While the plan also included restoration and recreation projects that plaintiffs were supportive of, the lawsuit specifically challenged logging and road-building. It would have been the largest timber sale on any national forest in 30 years, allowing for 164 miles of new road construction and the logging of enough trees to equal a forest three times the size of Manhattan, or 67 square miles. Opponents said more than half the planned logging acres would have targeted old-growth trees.
The ruling throws out the Forest Service’s record of decision and environmental impact statement (EIS) on the Prince of Wales project entirely, requiring the agency to prepare a complete new EIS before proceeding with logging plans or roads on Prince of Wales Island. The ruling is a victory for the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council and seven other conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice. The order does not hinder the Forest Service’s ability to proceed with recreation and restoration projects that were part of the EIS.
“This ruling concludes our case against the largest logging project in decades, for now, and marks a win for old-growth forests and future generations on Prince of Wales Island,” said Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo. “Today, all who seek refuge in this temperate rainforest, and those who rely on traditional hunting practices sustained by that ecosystem, can breathe a sigh of relief.”
“This is a huge victory for this spectacular old-growth forest and the plants, animals and people that depend on it,” said Randi Spivak, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s public lands program. “It’s a clear repudiation of the Trump administration’s reckless, log-anywhere approach to our national forests. There’s no better example of the Forest Service and politicians doing the bidding of the timber industry. Thank goodness this gorgeous forest will be spared for now.”
“It’s exactly what we asked for and we couldn’t be more pleased,” said Meredith Trainor, executive director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council among those who brought the lawsuit.
Eight conservation groups sued the Trump administration in May 2019 to stop its authorization of the largest logging project in the national forest system in a generation, including thousands of acres of old-growth timber in the Tongass National Forest.
Prince of Wales Island, the fourth-largest island in the United States, is prized by residents and visitors alike for hunting, fishing, recreation and tourism.
The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Alaska Rainforest Defenders, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Alaska Wilderness League, National Audubon Society, and Natural Resources Defense Council was represented by Earthjustice in this case.
The 17 million acres Tongass National Forest makes up over 80 percent of Southeast Alaska and stretches 500 miles between Ketchikan and Yakutat. The Tongass is Earth's largest remaining temperate rainforest, and the largest National Forest in the United States.
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