Appeals by local environmental groups delayed a timber sale near Tenakee Springs for at least eight months.
A Forest Service appeals officer this week reversed an earlier decision on the Indian River Timber Sale.
The sale would have allowed 23.8 million board feet to be cut several miles north of Tenakee and about 50 miles southwest of Juneau. The Sitka Conservation Society and Chichagof Conservation Council appealed the decision.
Appeals officer James Caplan agreed with the environmental groups that more research and supporting documentation was needed in five areas of the sale. Specifically, more information was needed on brown bear buffers, the socioeconomic effects of the timber sale, possible alternative harvest levels and methods, and the impact of roads across limestone areas full of underground streams and caverns.
``Basically it requires us to go back and do some additional work,'' said Forest Service spokesman Jim Thomas. ``There's nothing in the decision itself that would kill the sales.''
The Forest Service will need to publish a new environmental impact statement and record of decision for the timber sale. Then the sale will go through public comment and appeals again.
``I would think the quickest they'd be able to get through this is eight months,'' Thomas said.
The Indian River timber sales would decrease deer habitat by 10 to 17 percent in the area, according to U.S. Forest Service estimates.
Tenakee resident John Wisenbaugh, head of the Chichagof Conservation Council, called the decision a victory.
``We're quite pleased that the Forest Service is finally listening to us,'' he said.
Jack Phelps of the Alaska Forest Association said logging has been cut back so drastically by the Forest Service that any reduction is a ``real problem'' for the industry.
``We really need the full amount each year if we're going to keep our mills running,'' Phelps said.
Juneau Empire ©2015. All Rights Reserved.