Conservation groups sue over Prince of Wales Island project

Clearcuts and old-growth forests are part of the view of Indian Valley on Prince of Wales Island.

Indian Valley on Prince of Wales Island. (Creative Commons photo by Nick Bonzey)

Eight conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service in federal district court last week over the controversial sale of thousands of acres of trees on Prince of Wales Island.

In March, the Forest Service signed off on the final environmental review for what could be the largest logging operation in more than a decade in a national forest.

But the agency has maintained the project is intended for more than just timber, saying it will fulfill a variety of objectives, like stream restorations and the construction of new hiking trails and public use cabins.

The plaintiffs say that the Forest Service hasn’t provided a detailed map of the areas that could be logged and therefore can’t adequately assess the environmental impact of the project for the public to weigh in.

Tom Waldo, an attorney at Earthjustice, says the project shouldn’t be allowed to move forward.

“This is a brazen attempt by the Forest Service to rewrite the rules for timber sales,” Waldo said. “And it comes at the expense of a vast amount of habitat on Prince of Wales Island, that’s important for wildlife and for people and communities.”

Historically, large-scale industrial logging has taken place on the island. It’s where Alaska’s last mid-sized sawmill resides.

The Forest Service is expected to offer a timber sale in the area this summer.

A page on the agency’s website with more details about the project appeared to be down Tuesday. But the page has since been restored.

This story has been updated as new information has become available. 

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