Earlier this week, the U.S. Forest Service upheld the decision for the Big Thorne Timber Sale on Prince of Wales Island. The timber sale project area covers more than 200,000 acres on Prince of Wales Island close to Thorne Bay and Coffman Cove. The proposed harvests would include more than 6,000 acres of old-growth forest, and more than 2,000 acres of second-growth.
Multiple Alaskan and national conservation groups have called this scale of cutting of old-growth forest irresponsible. They are concerned about the impact it will have on wildlife populations – mainly deer and wolves.
Tom Waldo is an attorney with Earthjustice, the Juneau-based environmental law organization that filed the two lawsuits against the Forest Service Friday.
“If they move forward with this timber sale, there will be so much deer habitat lost that there won’t be enough deer to go around for local resident to hunt and to sustain a viable wolf population,” Waldo said. “And it’s completely unnecessary with the timber markets as weak as they are right now there’s absolutely no reason that the Forest Service should be offering the biggest timber sale in 20 years on the Tongass.”
One lawsuit challenges the site-specific Big Thorne Timber Sale. The other challenges the overarching plan for the Tongass National Forest, called the Tongass Land Management Plan.
Earthjustice is representing Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Alaska Wilderness League, and Sierra Club in both suits, and the Natural Resources Defense Council in the land management plan suit.
A spokesperson for the Forest Service could not be reached by deadline Friday. But on Thursday, before the lawsuits were filed, Tongass National Forest Service Supervisor Forrest Cole said he expected the conservation groups to take legal action.