Update: Court blocks old-growth logging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

Meanwhile, the Trump administration pushes to allow roads and more cutting.


A legal challenge to timber sales in the Tongass National Forest argues the sites are vital for deer, prey of the rare Alexander Archipelago wolf.


At 17 million acres, Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is part of the planet’s largest intact temperate rainforest. Decades of battles over logging its ancient trees and a decrease in timber demand led to plans in 2016 to phase out, over the next 15 years, large old-growth clear-cuts. But many conservationists argued that greater urgency was needed to protect the ancient Sitka spruce, cedar and hemlock, which store vast amounts of carbon, and rare Sitka black-tailed deer, Alexander Archipelago wolves, salmon and other wildlife (“An end to old-growth logging in Alaska’s Tongass?HCN, 10/31/16).


In late November, a federal appeals court ruled that the Forest Service must halt four Tongass timber sales that would have required building 14 miles of logging roads to reach 1,700 acres of old-growth rainforest. Greenpeace USA and Cascadia Wildlands had filed a lawsuit over the projects a decade earlier, arguing that Tongass officials had underestimated logging’s potential impacts on deer, wolves and subsistence hunters. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is considering exempting Alaska from the federal roadless rule that limits road construction in national forests, potentially opening the Tongass to more road-building and more extensive logging.

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