Feds appeal ruling that nixed old-growth logging on Prince of Wales Island

Green, spruce covered mountains drop into the blue ocean.
An aerial shot of Prince of Wales Island. (Photo by KRBD)

Attorneys for the U.S. Forest Service are challenging a federal court’s decision to throw out the environmental review of one of the largest old-growth timber sales in the Tongass National Forest in decades. At stake was 23,269 acres of old-growth forest to be clear cut.

The original case was filed by the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. It successfully argued that the Forest Service violated key environmental laws by withholding site-specific information over which stands of trees would be auctioned.

RELATED: For Tongass projects, critics say environmental rollback could cut the public out of the process

In a filing on Friday, the Justice Department filed notice with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Earthjustice attorney Olivia Glasscock says it’s unclear when the federal appeals court in San Francisco will hear the Forest Service’s appeal.

“For the time being this doesn’t mean anything for the decision we got,” she said Friday. “That’s still intact and must still be complied with.”

Neither the Forest Service nor the Justice Department has commented on the case. A message sent to both agencies wasn’t immediately returned on Friday.

In previous filings, the federal government has argued that its Prince of Wales timber sales were necessary to keep Southeast’s remaining mills running.

Jacob Resneck is CoastAlaska's regional news director in Juneau.

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