JUNEAU, Alaska (CN) – Environmental groups seek to stop road contracts and timber sales in the Tongass National Forest, claiming the government needs to take a second look at the environmental impact of the projects since the U.S. Forest Service approved them nearly 10 years ago.
The government has been sued in Federal Court by a coalition of the Tongass Conservation Society, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Cascadia Wildlands Project.
They oppose the Forest Service’s May 1999 approval of the Sea Level Roads Contract and the Orion North Reoffer Timber Sale, which allowed logging of about 51 million board-feet of timber, plus a plan to rebuild 14 miles of existing roads and construct 29 miles of new roads.
Most of the timber has since been sold, but an unlogged portion remains in the Sea Level Creek area. The Forest Service awarded a contract for logging in that area, but conservation groups successfully persuaded the 9th Circuit to enjoin the sale. The government canceled the sale and entered into a settlement with the buyer in 2007, in which it agreed not to offer timber sales and road contracts in inventoried roadless areas, including the Sea Level/Orion North area, until it completed an environmental assessment.
The Forest Service issued a final impact report and then reoffered the area for timber sale and road contracts.
But the government’s analysis ignored many changes since its 1999 report, the lawsuit claims, including new information about deer habitat capability, invasive species and the southern red-backed vole.
The plaintiffs seek an injunction preventing the Forest Service from implementing the road contracts and reoffered timber sale.
They are represented by Thomas Waldo of Earthjustice.