The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council announced this week that it will not appeal a series of federal timber sales planned at Point Couverden, east of Gustavus.
The decision was a tough one because the Juneau-based environmental group says the Point Couverden timber project - totaling 23 million board feet - is excessively large, said Buck Lindekugel, SEACC's staff attorney.
The only way the Forest Service could sell that amount of timber is to authorize logging companies to export the wood overseas, Lindekugel said.
But instead of filing a lawsuit - as SEACC has done with other timber sales that it claims are wasteful - the group asked Tongass National Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole in a Monday letter to withdraw the decision and reissue a scaled-down version of the Couverden sales.
"We're glad they recognize the importance of sustainably providing raw materials to local, family-owned businesses, and that we are able to do that while protecting the natural environment we all treasure," said Kent Cummins, a spokesman for the Tongass National Forest, on Wednesday.
SEACC did not ask the Forest Service to revise its environmental analysis of the project.
A federal appeals court recently ruled against the Forest Service on a SEACC lawsuit that charged the agency with overestimated the demand for Tongass timber.
If the Point Couverden project only fulfilled the Icy Strait region's demand for wood products, it would be a significantly smaller project - along the lines of 5 million to 8 million board feet, Lindekugel said.
Some Gustavus residents successfully brokered a deal with Cole this year to incorporate small timber offerings for area sawmills into the Point Couverden project.
"We wanted to encourage the collaborative efforts that have been going on between (Gustavus) and the Forest Service," Lindekugel said.
Gustavus naturalist Greg Streveler said he and his wife, Judy Brakel, agree that the Forest Service should "stick with the small offerings" and perhaps delete the rest of the sale.
Streveler, who was involved with the negotiations, said the Gustavus group had originally advocated for about 5 million to 10 million board feet in timber sales.
"Buck's letter makes it clear that (SEACC) doesn't want to see the small program derailed," Streveler added.
Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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