JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Supreme Court has ruled that the state should not have attempted to transfer an area of forest land to the Alaska Mental Health Trust for potential logging.
The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council filed a lawsuit in 2013 after learning the state planned to transfer the Kuiu Island parcel to the mental health trust, which commercially logs in the region, CoastAlaska reported Monday.
A 1994 agreement directed the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to manage Kuiu Island’s No Name Bay area south of Juneau for wilderness conservation and habitat.
The court decision issued Friday agreed with the lawsuit’s central assertion that the state violated public notice requirements by attempting to transfer the area of about 5 square miles (13 square kilometers) without publicizing the action.
The justices returned the case to a lower court to determine the next steps with the land.
Meredith Trainor, executive director of the conservation council, said the ruling prevents the forest land around No Name Bay from being ceded to the mental health trust for potential clear cutting.
“Those lands provide important access to Kuiu Island for Southeast Alaskans who hunt, fish and recreate there,” Trainor said.
The area is also a key habitat for animals including deer, martens, otters, wolves, black bears, migratory waterfowl and salmon, she said.
The state Department of Natural Resources is considering the decision and cannot comment until after a review, spokesman Dan Saddler said in a statement.