Tongass National Forest: Conservationists Express Outrage over Industrial-Scale Timber Plan

Largest old-growth timber proposal in many years


Brian Smith, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2014


Gwen Dobbs, Alaska Wilderness League, (202) 544-5205

Forrest Cole, supervisor of the Tongass National Forest in Juneau, Alaska has announced his Record of Decision regarding the Big Thorne timber project. Read the Forest Service’s briefing paper.

Members of the conservation community expressed outrage over this decision. The agency is proposing to log 123 million board feet, making Big Thorne far and away the largest old-growth timber project in the Tongass National Forest, or any other national forest, in many years. Conservationists said they have no choice but to appeal the project to the Forest Service Chief. Agency leaders, including Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, have previously said they want to transition the Tongass quickly away from old-growth logging.

For comparison to Big Thorne, fewer than 18 million board feet were cut on the Tongass last year. The proposed 123 million board feet would fill 25,000 log trucks, which if parked end-to-end would stretch almost 300 miles without a break.

“Agency leaders, including Agriculture Secretary Vilsack have already committed to ending industrial-scale Tongass old-growth logging like Big Thorne,” said Cindy Shogan, Executive Director, Alaska Wilderness League. “In fact, this past month the public sent them more than 175,000 requests to make that transition out of old-growth towards a sustainable future for the Tongass quickly.”

“Big Thorne is a dinosaur proposal, a throwback to the days when Big Timber ruled the Tongass rainforest, said Niel Lawrence, Senior Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s time the U.S. Forest Service just let those days go extinct.”

“Large-scale old-growth logging at Big Thorne on Prince of Wales Island moves the declining Alexander Archipelago wolf and the Queen Charlotte northern goshawk that much closer to being put on the Endangered Species list,” said Jim Adams, Policy Director, Alaska Audubon Society. “The U.S. Forest Service can help avoid this by quickly and truly transitioning out of cutting our last relatively stands of rare, old trees.”

“Making concrete progress on the transition away from old-growth logging the administration announced in 2010 is what the Forest Service needs to focus on. Not doing more damage to the last great temperate rainforest on Earth. Not proposals like Big Thorne, which targets seven times the amount of old growth logged Tongass-wide last year,” said Eric Jorgensen, attorney with Earthjustice’s Alaska office. 

“This scheme to gut the Tongass would rip seven times more irreplaceable trees out of this majestic forest than last year. That is hardly the way for the Forest Service to meet their commitment to transition from old growth logging,” said Matt Kirby, Policy Representative for the Sierra Club. “The Tongass is the last great temperate rainforest on Earth, and the Forest Service can’t sacrifice this special place that belongs to every American for the sake of a handful of special interests.”

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