Six conservation groups, the State of Alaska, Alaska Forest Association, and the United States Forest Service settled a portion of the challenge to the 1997 Tongass Land Management Plan, they announced today. The agreement would cancel a timber sale that would have logged the last road-free valley in Thorne Arm near Ketchikan, an area valuable for hunting and recreation. In return, conservation groups agree to drop any challenge to a nearby timber sale that could provide an equal or greater volume of timber to local mills. The potential volume cleared for logging in this settlement -- up to 37 million board-feet -- is more than 80 percent of the total annual average logging level on the entire Tongass. This is the second such agreement in eight months that protects high value areas while providing timber for local mills.
"This agreement shows that it’s possible to provide enough timber to the existing Tongass mills without clearcutting roadless, backcountry places that are important to local communities for hunting, fishing, tourism, and recreation," added Tom Waldo of Earthjustice, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the case. "There is simply no need to log valuable roadless valleys in the Tongass."
"This settlement is very practical. We’re ensuring that local mills have the timber they need while the court continues to focus on solving serious problems with the mistakenly high logging level in the 1997 Forest Plan -- problems that the Forest Service has admitted to," said Aurah Landau, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council staffer.
The challenge to the 1997 Forest Plan, which centers on the impact of a Forest Service error that doubled market demand projections, will continue in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Earthjustice is representing the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, and National Audubon Society.
Tom Waldo, Earthjustice (907) 586-2751
Aurah Landau, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, (907) 586-6942, cell (907) 209-4725
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