Court agrees to review Alaska Roadless Rule case

Tongass

The Tongass National Forest makes up 17 million acres of Southeast Alaska. (Photo Courtesy U.S. Department of Agriculture)

A full panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will review the decision that allowed the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska to be exempt from federal restrictions on road-building and timber harvests.

A brief announcement Friday says a split-decision by a three-judge panel in March will be reviewed.

Environmental groups were cautiously optimistic after the ruling. They say a reversal of the decision would be good for the health of the forest.

The three-judge panel ruled 2-1 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had legitimate grounds in 2003 to temporarily exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Rule, which contains the restrictions.

The decision reversed a ruling by a lower court judge in that said the exemption was arbitrary.

The state of Alaska appealed that decision.