Judge temporarily blocks logging in nation's largest national forest

A federal judge on Monday temporarily halted the Trump administration’s plans to open up thousands of acres in the nation's largest national forest to logging. 

The decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska placed a preliminary injunction on the logging of 42,500 acres of temperate rainforest in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. It comes days before the administration was set to begin reviewing bids and offering contracts for the logging of old-growth timber in the forest.

The court ruled that “Plaintiffs have demonstrated that they are very likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary injunctive relief,” according to the ruling.

The order temporarily blocks the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) from allowing the “cutting of trees, road construction, or other ground-disturbing activities” in the covered areas.

The court additionally banned the opening of any bids or awarding of any contracts related to loggin in Tongass. The USFS was scheduled to take and review bids on an initial sale of 1,156 acres of trees on Sept. 24.

“Based on the foregoing, Plaintiffs have established that they will suffer irreparable harm if the harvest — particularly of old growth trees — authorized by the Twin Mountain Timber Sale occurs,” the court wrote of its decision to grant the injunction.

The USFS announced plans to open up the 2.2 million acres of forest to sales in March. Under the plan, more than 42,000 acres would be eligible for logging, with the remaining acres open to road construction. Environmental groups filed a lawsuit in May to block the plans. 

“Today’s preliminary ruling is a victory for wildlife and proper management of our nation’s irreplaceable forests. Moving forward with this initial sale would have ignited 15 years of clearcutting that would further destroy and fragment the remaining ancient forest habitat on Prince of Wales Island,” said Patrick Lavin, senior Alaska representative at the Defenders of Wildlife.