Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 18, 2015

Contacts:  Gabe Scott, Cascadia Wildlands, (907) 491-0856,
Becky Knight, Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community,
(907) 772-9391,
Oliver Stiefel, Crag Law Center, (503) 227-2212,
Larry Edwards, Greenpeace, (907) 747-7557,
Randy Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity, (310) 779-4894,
Patricia O'Brien, AWA-SE Chapter, (907) 789-9405,

Forest Service Backs Down, Cancels Controversial Tongass Old-growth Timber Sale

Logging Would Harm Wildlife, Subsistence Hunters in Alaska

PETERSBURG, Alaska— The U.S. Forest Service has formally withdrawn its March authorization of the Mitkof Island Project — a large, 35-million-board-foot timber sale — through documents made available to the public on its website yesterday.

Five environmental organizations sued the Forest Service in May to stop the sale. Those organizations — the Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and the Alaska Wildlife Alliance — are represented by attorneys with Crag Law Center in Portland and Cascadia Wildlands in Cordova.

“The agency was forced to walk away from this timber sale because it failed to listen to serious environmental concerns raised by the local community,” said Gabe Scott with Cascadia Wildlands. “If the agency simply intends to redraw the project’s scope, it will still be faced with the same realities about the needs of subsistence hunters and the precarious state of old-growth dependent species on Mitkof Island."

The proposed timber sale is located in the center of the Tongass National Forest, near the communities of Petersburg and Kupreanof. Last month the agency, whose cursory environmental review found that logging the remaining old-growth in the project area would have no significant impact on the forest or wildlife, announced its intent to withdraw the decision to authorize the project.

“Mitkof Island has been hard hit by 60 years of industrial logging,” said Becky Knight of Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, a Petersburg resident. “Subsistence hunters from the community rely on deer as a primary source of protein, but for years have been faced with critically low deer populations and severe harvest restrictions. This area of the Tongass needs a long period of recovery, but this sale targeted some of the few remaining stands of important winter deer habitat."

“While planning for this sale, the Forest Service tried to downplay and hide from the public the full scope of the damage this logging would cause,” said Randi Spivak at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The agency initially told the public this was a ‘small sale’ but the project ballooned into a major timber sale. Old-growth logging needs to end now.”

“The Forest Service must take a hard look at the environmental consequences of its actions, especially with respect to species like the deer and the goshawk that depend on old-growth forests,” said Oliver Stiefel of Crag Law Center. “In a rush to approve yet another major old-growth timber sale, the Tongass National Forest brushed aside these environmental concerns and fast-tracked the project.”

The formal withdrawal notice provides hope to those who depend on Mitkof for a variety uses, including hunting, recreation, fishing and wildlife viewing, that destructive old-growth timber sales like the Mitkof project will indeed be a thing of the past.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Greater Southeast Conservation Community is a regional conservation nonprofit organization in Southeast Alaska. GSACC seeks to foster protection of southeast Alaska’s fish, wildlife and their habitats.

Greenpeace is a non-profit environmental organization and its mission is to raise
public awareness of environmental problems and promote changes that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

The Alaska Wildlife Alliance is a nonprofit organization advocating for healthy
ecosystems scientifically managed to protect our wildlife for present and future generations.

Cascadia Wildlands acts in the interest of conservation of personal recreation, education, commercial fishing and tourism, photography and other opportunities for ourselves, for future generations, and for the intrinsic worth we find in a healthy, functioning wildland.

Crag Law Center is a nonprofit, public interest environmental law center dedicated to providing legal aid for the environment

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