Sitka: Environmentalists join lawsuit against Tongass timber sales

Posted: Sunday, June 23, 2002

The Sitka Conservation Society has joined a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service to halt work on a number of timber sales in several Northwest states, including four in the Tongass National Forest.

The suit, filed June 18 by a consortium of six organizations, claims the Forest Service performed inadequate economic analysis on a number of timber sales in Alaska, Oregon and Washington.

"There's an inadequacy in the way the Forest Service does their economic analysis, and this lawsuit addresses that," said Pat Veesart, executive director of the Sitka Conservation Society.

The plaintiffs claim the Forest Service violated the National Forest Management Act when it failed to properly take into account the economic value of old growth forests in environmental impact statements on the timber sales.

The four Tongass timber sales in question are the Baranof, Rowan, Canal Hoya and Sea Level.

"They failed to take into account the value those trees have standing," Veesart said.

The suit claims the Forest Service failed to take into account products, uses, services and values associated with unlogged forests.

"Before the Forest Service authorizes logging, the agency must demonstrate that a timber sale is in the best economic interest of adjacent communities, the region and the nation," John Talberth, director of conservation for the Forest Conservation Council, said.

The Forest Conservation Council is a plaintiff in the suit.

"In making this determination, the Forest Service must demonstrate that the value of timber is greater than the value of goods and services produced by unlogged National Forest land," Talberth said. "In each of these timber sales . . . the Forest Service has simply ignored the vast economic importance of intact ancient forest."

Veesart said he believes the Forest Service has a bias toward the value of timber sales.

"There's this myth that timber is an important part of the economy in Southeast Alaska," he said. The timber industry accounts for only 3 percent of the Southeast's economy, he said.

Veesart said the tourism and subsistence value of the forests will be lost if logging is allowed.

"(Tourists) don't come to Alaska to see clear-cuts," he said.

Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Friends of the Earth, Sitka Conservation Society, Oregon Natural Resources Council, Brietenbush Hot Springs and Retreat Center, Forest Guardians and the Forest Conservation Council.

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