Aug. 8, 2005 – A law allowing limited logging in an Alaskan national park is on the verge of dramatic change following a Friday appeals court ruling in favor of a challenge brought by environmental groups.
The ruling found that too much lumber is being pulled from the Tongass National Park as a result of repeated decisions by the United States Forest Service not to expand preserved wilderness areas. The decision, made by the three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, is a step toward rolling back the parkâ€™s deforestation.
In 1997, Congress passed the Tongass Timber Reform Act, forcing federal land management officials to take "market demand" into account when crafting the Tongass National Park Land Management Plan. The latter measure governs recreation, conservation, tourism and other factors affecting the 17 million-acre forest.
But the court found that Forest Service officials misinterpreted the market demand for lumber, leading to numerous documented instances of felled trees rotting on the forest floor.
According to the Anchorage Daily News, Forest Service officials failed to properly understand a market analysis and nearly doubled the amount of timber the logging companies could take each year.
Fridayâ€™s case, Natural Resources Defense Council v United States Forest Service, was argued earlier this year and stems from a 1999 legal challenge to the Forest Service, according to court filings.
Six environmental groups joined in the suit -- the Natural Resources Defense Council, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Wilderness Society, Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club and Earth Justice, the nonprofit environmental law firm which argued the case.
The groups are calling for a moratorium on new logging until a fresh plan is worked out. The Alaskan District Court will decide whether to prohibit logging while the Forest Service revises the land management plan.