The Viking Lumber Mill on Prince of Wales Island was awarded a contract to log part of the Big Thorne timber sale. (Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska News)

In a ruling filed Friday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a petition from conservation groups, asking the court to take another look at its spring ruling in the Big Thorne Timber Sale.

In May, the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the U.S. Forest Service and its plans to offer the Big Thorne Timber Sale on Prince of Wales Island. The lawsuit first was filed in 2014 by environmental groups seeking to halt timber harvest in that area.

The 6,000-acre timber sale includes old growth stands. The conservationists argue that cutting old-growth trees will harm the wolf population. 

Logging on the sale has been ongoing as the lawsuit made its way through the court.

According to the May ruling, plaintiffs argued that the Forest Service didn’t adequately ascertain the wolf population when planning the timber sale. The ruling stated that knowing exactly how many wolves were on the island wasn’t essential. 

The ruling also stated that the court is required to uphold a federal agency’s decision unless it’s proven to be arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law.

With Friday’s denial of the petition, the next step for conservation groups to consider is a request for the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Alaska Wilderness League, Sierra Club, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Cascadia Wildlands, Greater Southeast Conservation Community, Greenpeace, Center for Biological Diversity and The Boat Company.

The defendants are the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Regional Forester Beth Pendleton, former Tongass National Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole, and Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. The State of Alaska, and local governments and businesses throughout Southeast signed on to the lawsuit in support of the defendants.