Legal Victory in POW Forest Logging Plan Goes Unchallenged by Department of Justice
Posted & Edited by MARY KAUFFMAN
October 26, 2020
A coalition of rainforest defenders who successfully halted a massive timber sale on Prince of Wales Island in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest received word this week that their legal victory would go unchallenged. The U.S. Department of Justice informed the court that it would not pursue its previously filed appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, instead opting to end the dispute with a motion for voluntary dismissal. According to Earthjustice, this puts to rest the largest logging operation proposed by the U.S. Forest Service in decades.
“Putting an end to this logging plan protects the voice of the people in federal decision making processes. The Forest Service was trying to fast track logging without listening to the needs of communities, and ignoring the devastating impacts of their actions on wolves, deer, birds, and salmon.” said Natalie Dawson, executive director at Audubon Alaska.
Dawson said, “The large old-growth trees and rich ecosystem of Prince of Wales Island contributes to the region’s tourism, fishing, and recreation. The time to embrace sustainable economies and turn our backs on expensive, destructive, fast-tracked logging is long overdue.”
The court case was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of National Audubon Society, 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. The court’s opinion was issued on June 24, 2020.
Quoting a news release from Earthjustice, this legal victory spared centuries-old trees on 1.8 million acres across Prince of Wales Island in the Tongass National Forest, quelling fears of traditional hunters and others in Southeast Alaska who rely on the area for wild food gathering, fishing, tourism, and recreation.
Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm, represented 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 in this case.
While this legal victory effectively dissolves a plan authorizing logging on more than 40,000 acres of old-growth and younger trees, a new timber sale planned for Prince of Wales Island targets roughly 3,000 acres of old-growth forest, including some of the same areas incorporated in the plan struck down in court. Known as the Twin Mountain II timber sale, this new Forest Service plan would affect separate areas north and west of Thorne Bay on Prince of Wales Island.
At the same time, Earthjustice says the larger Tongass National Forest continues to remain at risk of new logging activity. This week or next, the U.S. Forest Service is expected to issue a record of decision finalizing a plan to roll back the Roadless Rule, a federal safeguard that restricts logging and road-building in designated wild areas, within the Tongass National Forest. The policy shift would allow for logging in vast expanses of old-growth temperate rainforest across 9 million currently protected acres.
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