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October 21, 2020

Prince of Wales Island to Remain Protected from Logging

Victory: Litigation wraps up, preserving legal victory halting massive timber sale in Tongass National Forest

Contacts

Rebecca Bowe, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2093

Corey Himrod, Alaska Wilderness League, (202) 266-0426

Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity, (310) 779-4894

Gwen Dobbs, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-0269

Matt Smelser, National Audubon Society 

Rebecca Sentner, Audubon Alaska

Dan Cannon, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, (440)-724-4716

Juneau, AK (Tlingit / Áak’w Ḵwáan lands)

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. That put to rest the largest logging operation proposed by the U.S. Forest Service in decades.

The 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, represents 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, 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.

Background

  • Court ruling striking down U.S. Forest Service Record of Decision and Environmental Impact Statement on the Prince of Wales project
  • Press Release on initial ruling against Prince of Wales logging plan
  • Press Release on U.S. Forest Service plan to roll back Roadless Rule

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.