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Judge Issues Preliminary Injunction Halting POW Timber Sale in Tongass National Forest

Initial phase of logging project placed on hold a day before bids were scheduled to open

Posted & Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN


September 25, 2019
Wednesday PM

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska – Monday a federal judge issued a court ruling halting the initial phase of the largest timber sale approved by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) in 30 years, at least until the court case is resolved. The USFS has a 15-year plan to log more than 42,500 acres of temperate rainforest on Prince of Wales Island in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. The plan also includes the construction of 164 miles of new roads through public lands. Most of the trees targeted for logging are old-growth, meaning they have been standing for hundreds of years.

Monday’s ruling, by a federal district judge in Alaska, grants a preliminary injunction blocking an initial Twin Mountain timber salesale that would have auctioned off 1,156 acres of what the plaintiffs say are old-growth trees. More than 10 miles of new roads would have been constructed along with this sale. If not for this court decision, USFS would have opened timber industry bids on these ancient stands of trees on September 24. Next, the judge is expected to issue a final ruling on the merits of the case no later than March 31, 2020 before the next logging season starts. 

Quoting a news release from Defenders of Wildlife, most of the trees targeted for logging are old-growth, and may have sprouted as saplings many centuries ago. 

Audubon, along with Earthjustice, Alaska Rainforest Defenders, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Alaska Wilderness League, National Audubon Societyand Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit challenging the Prince of Wales project back in May. Monday’s ruling grants a preliminary injunction that blocks the initial sale that would have auctioned off 1,156 acres of old-growth trees.

The USFS would have opened timber industry bids on September 24, 2019 if it weren’t for this injunction, putting the old-growth trees on Prince of Wales and the wildlife that rely on them in imminent danger according to the plaintiffs.

“The timber sale units are flagged and ready for logging. Without this preliminary injunction, we would not be able to stop the timber harvest, and we know from past activities that many of the ancient cedars and spruce would be logged before the court comes to a resolution,” said Natalie Dawson, executive director for Audubon Alaska.

Dawson said, “We thank the courts for recognizing the need to protect the trees until the case is resolved. Otherwise, Viking Lumber and the Forest Service will push for timber sales and trees will be logged before we have our day in court.” 

According to the plaintiffs, the USFS authorized this logging project without disclosing which specific locations would be targeted or what impacts logging would have there, prompting the lawsuit in May 2019 challenging the Prince of Wales project. 

“[Monday’s] preliminary ruling is a victory for wildlife and proper management of our nation’s irreplaceable forests. Moving forward with this initial sale would have ignited 15 years of clearcutting that would further destroy and fragment the remaining ancient forest habitat on Prince of Wales Island. Thanks to laws requiring protections for wildlife, species like wolves, goshawks, salmon and bears get a reprieve for now,” said Patrick Lavin, Senior Alaska Representative, Defenders of Wildlife.




Source of News:

Audubon Alaska

Defenders of Wildlife




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