Court halts timber industry suit in Alaska

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A federal judge has thrown out an industry lawsuit that could have led to more logging and road building in Alaska's Tongass National Forest, the nation's largest federal forest.

U.S. District Judge John Bates Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a timber group and an organization of Southeast Alaska civic and business leaders. The Southeast Conference and Alaska Forest Association had challenged a 2008 management plan for the Tongass developed by the Bush administration.

Environmental groups hailed the ruling as a small victory, saying the judge had prevented what they consider a bad forest plan from becoming even worse. Those groups say the Bush plan does not do enough to protect old-growth reserves and sites that are sacred to Alaska Native tribes.

…The Bush plan leaves about 3.4 million acres of the 17-million acre forest open to logging and other development, including about 2.4 million acres of backcountry areas that are remote and roadless. About 663,000 acres are in areas considered most valuable for timber production.