Obama Administration Approves Logging in Roadless Area

Saturday, July 18, 2009
Revillagigedo Island (Photo by Jeffrey Beall/ENS)

A ban on building roads in National Forests was disregarded by the Obama administration this week when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack approved a plan to open up to logging a stretch of forest on Revillagigedo Island in Tongass National Forest in southern Alaska. The decision was the first since Vilsack’s promise in May to personally review requests to cut down trees in roadless areas of National Forests. A coalition of environmentalists have opposed the logging plan submitted by Pacific Log and Lumber, a mill near Ketchikan, to clear-cut 4.4 million board-feet of timber, with an option to cut another 2.4 million board-feet if it’s “economical.”

Economy was the key word for federal representatives from Alaska who support the logging. Both of the state’s U.S. senators praised Vilsack for his decision, claiming the plan will provide jobs to a struggling local economy. But environmentalists see little sense in building roads that will “cost four times as much as the revenue the Forest Service is going to get from the timber sale,” said Tom Waldo of Earthjustice. Opponents have filed a lawsuit to stop the timber harvest, but so far have failed to succeed in lower courts and the Ninth Circuit.
The ban on building roads in National Forests, expected to protect 58 million acres, was first adopted by the Clinton administration, but has been subjected to numerous challenges since then.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Ketchikan Mill is Awarded Orion North Timber (by Kate Gordon, Juneau Empire)


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