The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the United States Forest Service (USFS), allowing operations to log Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.
The 2-1 court decision, released Tuesday, went against a Greenpeace and various other interest groups, clearing the way for the largest logging operation on the Tongass Forest in 20 years.
“We are disappointed that the court’s decision tipped to a setback in our effort to save the ecological integrity of Prince of Wales Island,” Larry Edwards of Greenpeace told Alaska’s SitNews.
The Ninth Circuit determined that the USFS did not violate the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) or the “standards and guidelines” of the Big Thorne Project when the agency launched the Tongass Forest Plan in 2008.
According to court documents, one of the Big Thorne Project’s guidelines urges the USFS to “provide, where possible, sufficient deer habitat capability to … maintain sustainable wolf populations.” The plaintiffs in the case said the guideline did not create sufficient standards protecting wolf habitat and population numbers.
“This argument is neither viable nor sustainable,” the court opinion said. “We’re aware of no authority compelling the agency to set a specific standard or benchmark for protecting the viability of a species that is neither endangered nor threatened.”
If the wolf had been protected under the Endangered Species Act, the court’s decision would have been reversed because of the stricter protections within the act. Because the regulations present in the NFMA are focused on competing uses rather than animal protection, logging and other uses of the Tongass National Forest are not expressly excluded.
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