REXBURG, Idaho — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved a plan to eliminate an estimated 11,625 acres of old-growth old-growth forest in Alaska after determining that logging was not necessary to bolster its salmon fisheries.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue issued the rule on Wednesday. The Idaho Statesman reported that the logging will be in a federally-managed area of the remote Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska.
The area has been closed off since the late 1990s to protect threatened salmon populations. Forest officials had argued that it was impossible to ensure adequate supplies of the fish in the forest.
The forest initially valued the area at $1.5 billion, creating a public utility, timber leasing and recreation opportunities that they said would stimulate the economy and return the forest to a state of wilderness and pristine forest conditions.
That estimate was later reduced to about $1 billion and forest officials were determined to have over-estimated the economic benefits.
Funding has been a large impediment to removing the logging restriction.
The forest has been suing the state of Alaska, claiming failure to remove a requirement to use alternative methodologies to evaluate its wood products and methods to divert timber from the forest. A state attorney general’s office spokesman declined to comment on the case.
State officials in Alaska recently said they were willing to settle with the state and federal governments for money but only if their testimony is taken into consideration by the forest agencies.