Native villagers won a significant victory Wednesday (Sept. 26) against timber interests when a federal judge refused to let logging proceed in a roadless region of the Tongass National Forest.
Federal District Court Judge James K. Singleton, Jr. ruled that the U.S. Forest Service failed to follow its own advice -- and used misleading information -- by allowing logging in Threemile Arm, on Kuiu Island, a traditional subsistence use area relied upon by the village of Kake.
The Forest Service used outdated market information that overstated demand for the timber, Judge Singleton said. Concurring with an Earthjustice lawsuit filed on behalf of villagers, he ruled that the timber sale could not occur without an Environmental Impact Assessment that used accurate market information.
"This ruling confirms the Organized Village of Kake's claim that the U.S. Forest Service has consistently subsidized industrial logging over tribal members' way of life," said Mike Jackson, an official with OVK. "We need standing trees and healthy creeks and watersheds for our culture, our food, our way of life and our economic opportunities."
The ruling echoed a 2005 court action that disallowed the management plan for the entire forest because it also used inflated market information. A new management plan is expected in November.
"The Forest Service has repeatedly misused its own economic data to justify a bloated, wasteful timber sale program in the Tongass," said Tom Waldo, an Earthjustice attorney who argued the case. "As a result, special places like Threemile Arm are needlessly put at risk, and it's costing American taxpayers tens of millions of dollars every year."
Kuiu Island is 20 miles south of Kake. The proposed logging would have required 8.4 miles of new roads and 621 acres of clearcuts in a roadless area.
Earthjustice also represented the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, and Center for Biological Diversity in the case. NRDC co-counseled the case with Earthjustice.
Tom Waldo, Earthjustice, (907) 586-2751
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