A federal judge has recently rejected the Trump administration’s plan to open logging in part of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.
If it had been approved it “would have been the largest timber sale on any national forest in 30 years, allowing for 164 miles of new road construction and the logging of enough trees to equal a forest three times the size of Manhattan, or 67 square miles,” says EarthJustice.
This decision only affects a part of the national forest called Prince of Wales Island.
Alaskan Judge Sharon Gleason ruled the project’s approval violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). Both acts look at environmental factors on federal projects.
“By not developing actual site-specific information, the Forest Service limited its ability to make informed decisions regarding impacts to subsistence uses and presented local communities with vague, hypothetical, and over-inclusive representations of the project’s effects over a 15-year period,” wrote Gleason.
According to The Hill, this decision delays U.S. Forest Service plans to open logging in more than 1.8 million acres over the next 15 years, a project that would have also green-lit the construction of 164 miles of road through the forest.
“This is a huge win for wildlife, climate, and all people’s voices on the most biologically diverse and vulnerable island on the Tongass National Forest. This ruling protects ancient forests that are crucial to mitigating climate change impacts in Alaska and across the globe,” says Natalie Dawson, executive director of Audubon Alaska.
Back in October of last year, the Trump administration was working to exempt the Tongass from the 2001 “Roadless Rule” which would prevent logging by banning any road construction and timber harvesting in federal forests. “Alaska’s use of federal grant funds to help lobby on changes to the Roadless Rule is now under investigation by the inspector general at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Forest Service,” continues The Hill.