"The day when this kind of timber sale made sense is long gone," said Carol Cairnes, president of the board of the Ketchikan-based Tongass Conservation Society. "Cutting these trees will not even bring in half the money the Forest Service will spend building a road to get to the trees."
The Forest Service first made the decision to offer the Orion North timber sale ten years ago in 1999. Today's lawsuit, filed by Tongass Conservation Society, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, and Cascadia Wildlands Project, argues that the Forest Service's decision is outdated.
"The Orion North timber sale has been on the books for a decade. Since then, timber prices have plummeted while the costs of timber sales to taxpayers have skyrocketed," said Kate Glover, an attorney with Earthjustice, the law firm representing the conservation groups. "There has also been a lot of new scientific research in that time. For example, we now know that deer habitat in Thorne Arm may barely be sufficient to support wolves and deer hunting. If the Forest Service keeps logging here, we could see restrictions on subsistence and recreational hunting in the future."
"The rest of Thorne Arm has already been hammered with clearcuts. People in Ketchikan use this last pristine area for fishing, hiking, and family outings -- the trees have more value standing than they do cut," said Cairnes.
The Tongass National Forest is the nation's biggest national forest at 17 million acres. Some 10 million acres of the forest were protected under the 2001 Roadless Rule until they were withdrawn by the Bush administration.