Judge Pauses Timber Sale In Alaska's Tongass National Forest

An environmental law group alleges the Forest Service didn't adequately explain where the logging would happen or how it would impact the environment.

Judge Pauses Timber Sale In Alaska's Tongass National Forest
U.S. Forest Service

On Monday, a judge issued a preliminary injunction that will temporarily halt the initial phase of a timber sale in Alaska's Tongass National Forest.

The U.S. Forest Service approved the sale of 42,500 acres of temperate rainforest at Prince of Wales Island. The service was set to start looking at bids for the logging of 1,156 acres of old-growth trees starting Tuesday. It's the largest timber sale approved by the USFS in the last three decades. The plan is to construct 164 miles of new roads through public lands.

Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law organization, filed a lawsuit over the project in May. It argued the USFS didn't disclose which specific locations would be targeted for logging or what impacts it would have.

As Newsy has previously reported, Tongass National Forest spans nearly 17 million acres. Its wilderness of old-growth cedar, spruce and hemlock trees makes up the world's largest temperate rainforest. 

In 2001, then-President Bill Clinton banned logging in more than half of Tongass. But in August, President Donald Trump pushed his agriculture secretary to exempt the forest from restrictions that ban logging in a "roadless" national forest.

In response to Tuesday's injunction, Earthjustice attorney Olivia Glasscock said: "This is only the beginning. A total of 42,500 acres of temperate rainforest still hangs in the balance, and we will continue working on behalf of our clients to defend these irreplaceable public lands, which safeguard our climate, provide habitat for wildlife and offer enjoyment for all."

The judge is expected to issue a ruling on the case's merits before April 1, prior to the start of the next logging season.