Today, the Crag Law Center filed a new lawsuit to stop a Forest Service project that would log more than 6,000 acres of irreplaceable old-growth temperate rainforest in Southeast Alaska. The Big Thorne timber sale is planned on the Tongass National Forest and would destroy habitat used by imperiled wildlife that depend on coastal, old-growth forest, including the Alexander Archipelago wolf and the Sitka black-tailed deer. Crag is representing a coalition of groups, including Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Coalition, Cascadia Wildlands, Greenpeace, Center for Biological Diversity and the Boat Company, a local sustainable tour operator.
The country’s foremost scientist on the coastal wolves of Southeast Alaska – Dr. David K. Person – implored the Forest Service to conserve the little remaining old-growth habitat on Prince of Wales Island. Alarming declines in the wolf populations have been documented in the last several years as hunters and trappers have targeted wolves both legally and illegally to prop up populations of deer. A petition is pending to list the wolf as a threatened or endangered species, but 6,000 acres of old-growth logging could seal the fate of the wolf before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has an opportunity to conserve the species. The Forest Service systematically suppressed and then attacked Dr. Person’s dissenting scientific opinions, which ignited a much-heated debate among federal and state agencies and the conservation community.
The latest lawsuit follows up on more than five years of work that Crag has carried out in partnership with groups working to conserve the old-growth forests of Southeast Alaska. In 2011, we won an important case in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals due to similar concerns over impacts to coastal wolves. The Forest Service continues to ignore the best available science on conservation of old-growth ecosystems, and we will continue our work to protect the wolf.