Alaska will continue its court battle against a U.S. Forest Service policy that blocks logging in undeveloped areas of national forests.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled Friday that the state can resume legal action against what’s called the roadless rule.
A lower court had thrown the case out, saying the state missed a key deadline.
Tom Lenhart, the state attorney involved in the case, says it’s back on track.
“The Circuit Court of Appeals agrees that our case was filed timely and they have remanded it back to the District Court. So basically, we pick up our challenge where we left off, in the District Court,” he says.
Logging opponents say the Clinton-era roadless rule should remain on the books. It’s been in and out of court several times.
Buck Lindekugel is attorney for the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.
“We’re confident that the D.C. circuit will ultimately find the roadless rule valid, just like both the 9th and 10th circuits have already concluded. We are also taking a hard look at whether or not to seek a full court reviewing of last week’s decision,” he says.
Roadless Rule supporters say it’s needed to protect old-growth forests and salmon habitat. State officials say it’s hurting the timber industry by blocking logging and road-building.
The suit was filed in 2011.
The state filed a separate lawsuit against the Forest Service that same year. It attempted to resurrect a Tongass exemption from the rule.
State attorney Lenhart says oral arguments are scheduled for mid-December.
He says the case the D.C. court acted on last week is larger.
“It is actually challenging the validity of the entire roadless rule, where as our case in Alaska, in the 9th Circuit, is only about a special exemption for the Tongass,” he says.
The state has intervened on the side of the Forest Service in a separate lawsuit trying to block the Big Thorne timber sale on Prince of Wales Island.
That suit was brought by environmental and fisheries groups objecting to the sale’s impacts on fish and wildlife habitat.