Forest officials pull Mitkof timber sale

KETCHIKAN — The U.S. Forest Service has withdrawn findings that the proposed timber sale on Mitkof Island near Petersburg has no significant environmental impact.

The federal agency pulled its decision notice earlier this month. The sale was projected to provide roughly 28.5 million board feet on roughly 4,117 acres on Tongass National Forest land, The Ketchikan Daily News reported.

“After considering the local industry’s concerns with the proposed sale and reviewing certain aspects of the project’s implementation, I believe an opportunity exists for improving the project’s scope of work to both provide a supply of timber that facilitates the transition to an industry based primarily on young-growth, as well as support the transition of the existing local industry,” said Tongass National Forest supervisor Earl Stewart, in a Nov. 6 letter to the Petersburg Ranger District.

Five environmental organizations — the Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community, Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and the Alaska Wildlife Alliance — filed a lawsuit against the Forest Service in May to halt the timber sale. The groups challenged the sale, arguing that deer habitat would be further impacted by the planned logging, which would negatively affect subsistence hunters on the island.

“The agency was forced to walk away from this timber sale because it failed to listen to serious environmental concerns raised by the local community,” said Gabe Scott with Cascadia Wildlands in a news release from Greenpeace.

Forest Service spokesman Kent Cummins said in an email Wednesday that the withdrawal allows the agency to take another look at the proposed sale on Mitkof Island and consider “improving the project’s scope.”

“It can give us a better understanding of how an integrated approach to resource management at the landscape level will ensure the Tongass provides for a wider range of economic, social, and ecological objectives for future generations,” Cummins said.

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