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Press Release

Ninth Circuit Upholds Big Thorne Timber Sale

May 23, 2017

(Juneau, AK) – The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision today upholding the Big Thorne Timber Sale in the Tongass National Forest. This decision ensures that the sole remaining saw mill in Southeast can continue operating for now.

“In a resource-centered state, we must be able to responsibly develop our resources,” said Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth. “I’m pleased the Big Thorne Timber Sale can continue to move forward and hope that we will see more sales in the future that properly balance conservation with economic need.”

In 2014, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) authorized the harvest of 148.9 million board-feet of timber over 8,500 acres. Several environmental groups challenged the record of decision for the sale and the 2008 Amendment to the Tongass Land and Resource Management Plan. Most of the allegations related to wolf management in the harvest area, which is a joint function of the State and USFS.

The federal district court upheld the sale and the management plan, and plaintiffs appealed. Ruling in favor of USFS, the State of Alaska, the Alaska Forest Association and many other intervening parties, the Ninth Circuit held that the USFS did not violate any laws in authorizing Big Thorne.

The Big Thorne sale was designed to be a ten year sale supplying timber at a rate of 15 to 20 million board feet per year. Although the final sale fell well short of the planned volume of timber, the sale is nevertheless one of the biggest federal timber sales from the Tongass in many years. As such, it allows the last remaining mill in Southeast Alaska, Viking, to continue to operate in the near term. However, the timber supply remains at a critically low level and the future of the industry remains in doubt. The State continues efforts on all fronts to assure a timber supply into the future.

The Ninth Circuit’s two opinions can be found here and here.

CONTACT: Assistant Attorney General Tom Lenhart at or 465-3600.

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