A full federal appeals court will review the decision allowing Alaska's Tongass National Forest to be exempt from federal restrictions on road-building and timber harvests in "roadless" areas."
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday announced an 11-member panel will review a split decision rendered by a three-judge panel in March, which said the U.S. Department of Agriculture had legitimate grounds in 2003 to temporarily exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Rule.
Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo said by phone from Juneau that the decision was great news for residents of southeast Alaska.
"This case is about the wild and undeveloped part of the Tongass, which are really important for hunting, fishing, tourism and recreation," he said. "These are the driving forces of the local economy, and today's order ensures that those places will remain protected until the court can give the issue a thorough review."
"Today's decision is extremely disappointing," said Sharon Leighow, spokeswoman for Gov. Sean Parnell. "It was the state's position that this case did not meet the criteria for a rehearing and was properly decided by the three-judge panel."
"As a result of today's ruling, the status of the Roadless Rule in the Tongass will remain in doubt well into 2015, further harming the economy in Southeast Alaska," she said in a statement.