Moss covers old growth trees along Auke Lake on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Moss covers old growth trees along Auke Lake on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Environmental groups object to Prince of Wales timber sale

Project would gut old-growth forest, opponents say

Environmental organizations in the state and around the country are opposing a major timber sale on Prince of Wales Island.

Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law organization, filed a formal objection to the Prince of Wales Landscape Level Analysis Project (POW LLA) on Dec. 21. It filed the opposition on behalf of nine conservation organizations, including Defenders of Wildlife, a national organization. Defenders of Wildlife filed an additional objection Thursday.

The POW LLA project is being done through the U.S. Forest Service, which writes on its website that the project is to improve ecosystem health in the Craig and Thorne Bay Ranger Districts while “meeting multiple resource objectives in order to provide economic development.”

Environmental groups have opposed this project, asserting that it paves the way for the logging of old-growth forest and road-building throughout the region. The Earthjustice objection called the proposal “the largest logging project in the entire country in more than a generation.”

[Opinion: Tourists don’t visit Southeast to see clear-cuts]

The proposal could allow up to 235 million board feet of old-growth forest to be harvested over 15 years, Defenders of Wildlife said in a press release Thursday. The public comment period is currently open but closes Monday, Dec. 31. People can comment by emailing Project Manager Delilah Brigham at

Forest Service officials were not available to speak Thursday, as emails and calls went unreturned and the voicemail greeting at the Tongass National Forest headquarters stated that the office was closed due to the current government shutdown.

The writers of the Earthjustice objection asserted that the Forest Service is not telling members of the public enough details about the project, including where the project area is or when the 15-year project timeframe is taking place. The project page on the Forest Service website doesn’t mention the word “timber” once, for example. The objection also claims this project will help improve the Prince of Wales forest ecosystem, but does not appear to be willing to fund aspects of the project about restoring habitat.

Pat Lavin, the Alaska representative for Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement that he’s skeptical that a massive logging project will even have a large economic impact on Southeast.

“More taxpayer-subsidized logging won’t create many jobs or help Southeast Alaska transition to a sustainable economy,” Lavin said in a statement, “but will threaten wildlife such as the Alexander Archipelago wolf, Sitka black-tailed deer and northern flying squirrel.”

The timber industry currently accounts for less than 1 percent of jobs in the region, according to the annual Southeast by the Numbers report from Southeast Conference.

The Alexander Archipelago wolves, which can only be found in Southeast Alaska, were once feared to be endangered. Numbers dropped to 89 animals in 2014, but population levels have stabled since then. In 2016, wildlife managers estimated that 231 wolves lived on Prince of Wales Island. The wolves rely on the Sitka black-tailed deer for food.

[One forester, 22 million miles of forest]

This project comes at a time when state and federal officials are looking to change regulations relating to construction in Alaska’s forests. The 2001 Roadless Rule blocks construction of new roads on areas including millions of acres of the Tongass, and the State of Alaska and the Forest Service have been in talks about adapting the rule since this summer.

Environmental groups recently scored a win in a decade-long legal battle with the Forest Service. In early December, a federal court invalidated four logging projects in the Tongass that would have cut about 33 million board feet of timber from old-growth forest.

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

More in News

This photo shows the National Archives in the Sand Point neighborhood of Seattle that has about a million boxes of generally unique, original source documents and public records. In an announcement made Thursday, April 8, 2021, the Biden administration has halted the sale of the federal archives building in Seattle, following months of opposition from people across the Pacific Northwest and a lawsuit by the Washington Attorney General's Office. Among the records at the center are tribal, military, land, court, tax and census documents. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)
Biden halts sale of National Archives center in Seattle

Tribes and members of Congress pushed for the halt.

This photo shows Unangax̂ Gravesite at Funter Bay, the site where Aleut villagers forcibly relocated to the area during World War II are buried. A bill recently passed by the Alaska House of Representatives would make the area part of a neighboring state park. (Courtesy photo / Niko Sanguinetti, Juneau-Douglas City Museum) 
Bill to preserve Unangax̂ Gravesite passes House

Bill now heads to the state Senate.

After over 30 years at 3100 Channel Drive, the Juneau Empire offices are on the move. (Ben Hohenstatt /Juneau Empire File)
The Juneau Empire is on the move

Advertising and editorial staff are moving to Jordan Creek Center.

The state announced this week that studded tires will be allowed for longer than usual. In Southeast Alaska, studded tires will be allowed until May 1 instead of April 15. (Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire)
State extends studded tire deadline

Prolonged wintry weather triggers the change.

COVID at a glance for Monday, April 12

The most recent state and local numbers.

Has it always been a police car. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Sunday, April 11, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Court sides with Dunleavy in appointments dispute

The court, in a brief order, reversed a ruling by a superior court judge.

The Juneau Police Department are seeking Brenda Jay Gallant, 40, after she was indicted recently for her alleged role in a 2021 vehicle arson. (Courtesy photo / JPD)
Police seeking woman indicted for arson

The indictment for the August fire came this March.

Most Read