Coalitions sue Forest Service to block Alaska old-growth timber sale
Two coalitions of environmental groups have filed three separate suits against the U.S. Forest Service, hoping to stop what the organizations say is the largest sale of old-growth timber in nearly a generation in America's largest national forest.
Last week the Forest Service gave the final go-ahead for the so-called Big Thorne timber sale in Alaska's Tongass National Forest, a scenic expanse the size of Delaware studded with 1,000-year-old trees. Under the terms of the multiyear sale, about 6,000 acres of old-growth trees would be harvested.
On Tuesday, a separate group of environmental organizations filed a third suit against the Forest Service seeking to stop the Big Thorne project.
This group, which includes Cascadia Wildlands and Greenpeace, said that the Alexander Archipelago wolf population on Prince of Wales Island had dropped sharply and that the federal agency ignored research by the foremost expert on the wolves in deciding to go forward with the sale.
"Without enough old-growth winter habitat in the forest for shelter, deer populations plummet during deep-snow winters," said Gabriel Scott, Cascadia Wildlands' Alaska legal director. "And without enough deer to go around, wolves and hunters are direct competitors.
"That never ends well for the wolf, or for hunters, because deer are the wolves' primary prey," Scott said. "Big Thorne bites hard into necessary winter habitat."