Big Legal Victory For America’s Rainforest!

Conservation groups scored a major win over the Trump administration’s effort to log old-growth trees in southeast Alaska.

A federal district court in Anchorage yesterday deemed unlawful a federal plan for the Tongass National Forest that would have been the largest timber sale on any national forest in 30 years.

From Bloomberg Environment:

The U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska on Wednesday ruled that the Forest Service violated multiple federal laws when it approved a broad management blueprint that would authorize future logging in the temperate rainforest without site-specific environmental review.

The Forest Service in its environmental analysis didn’t specify where logging would occur. Instead, it used a “condition-based” approach allowing it to make site-specific decisions in the future — and on top of that, Forest Service officials wouldn’t need to conduct any further NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act) review for those specific sites.

The court found serious shortcomings with this approach:

“The Forest Service has not yet taken the requisite hard look at the environmental impact of site-specific timber sales on Prince of Wales over the next 15 years,” Judge Sharon Gleason wrote, rejecting the agency’s decision to simply study maximum potential impacts.

Joining Alaska Wilderness League in the lawsuit are the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Alaska Rainforest Defenders, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Audubon Society and Center for Biological Diversity.

“The Prince of Wales project would’ve been the largest logging project that we have seen anywhere in our national forests in decades, and it would have destroyed thousands of acres of irreplaceable old-growth forest in the Tongass National Forest,” said Kristen Miller, conservation director at Alaska Wilderness League. “Wednesday’s ruling is a win for Southeast Alaska’s billion-dollar fishing and tourism industries, and a reminder as the Trump administration tries to significantly weaken the National Environmental Policy Act of the critical role NEPA plays in allowing the public to meaningfully weigh in on issues impacting their public lands.”

You can read our full press statement here, and learn more about the Tongass National Forest below.