Today Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law organization, filed two lawsuits against the U.S. Forest Service aimed at the destructive practice of old growth logging in the Tongass, America’s largest national forest, located in Southeast Alaska.
Earthjustice, on behalf of a coalition of Alaskan and national conservation groups, sued the Service for its approval yesterday of the Big Thorne timber sale, the largest old growth clear-cutting project in the Tongass since the 1990s. Earthjustice also sued to challenge the forest-wide Tongass Land Management Plan, which fails to preserve the old growth trees that provide crucial habitat to numerous species including the Sitka black-tailed deer and the Alexander Archipelago wolf, which is currently being considered for Endangered Species Act listing due in large part to the Forest Service’s failure to prevent unsustainable logging of old growth forests.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced plans to transition out of old growth logging in the Tongass, but massive old growth sales like Big Thorne, which puts more than 116 million board feet on the chopping block, are contrary to achieving this goal. To protect the economic strongholds of Southeast Alaska—tourism, fishing and recreation—and to ensure that the remaining stands of large old growth trees are preserved, conservation groups have requested that the Forest Service implement a rapid transition, lasting no more than five years.
In the Big Thorne lawsuit, Earthjustice clients are Alaska Wilderness League, Sierra Club, and Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. In the Tongass Land Management Plan lawsuit, clients are Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Alaska Wilderness League, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club.
The following is a statement from Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo:
“Clear-cutting thousands of acres of old growth forest is a wasteful practice that cannot continue. The Tongass is a national treasure, and it is an economic powerhouse for sustainable industries such as commercial fishing and tourism. This kind of large-scale industrial old growth logging hurts Southeast Alaskans and compromises the environmental and economic viability of the Tongass.”