Justice Department pulls appeal of ruling that blocked Southeast Alaska timber sale

JUNEAU - The federal government withdrew an appeal of a court ruling stopping one of the largest old-growth timber sales in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.

The U.S. Justice Department planned to pursue the case in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals but reversed course and withdrew the case Oct. 20, CoastAlaska reported Monday.

Environmentalists called the government’s decision a victory that spares more than 36 square miles of old-growth forest from potential clear cutting across Prince of Wales Island near Ketchikan in Southeast Alaska.

The U.S. Forest Service did not include site-specific information on areas that could be logged in its environmental review. A federal court said the process was flawed, ruling that the agency would need to restart the process to bring timber to market.

[Alaska tribes say federal government ignored Tongass exemption request]

The Forest Service has begun preliminary work on the Twin Mountain II timber sale, which could potentially offer up to 4.7 square miles of old-growth forest for logging that was part of the larger Prince of Wales project.

Timber industry representatives said they support the project that could supply the region’s mills with timber and provide jobs.