An aerial shot of Prince of Wales Island (KRBD file photo)

The federal government has withdrawn its appeal of a court ruling that halted one of the largest old growth timber sales in the Tongass National Forest.

Environmentalists called it a victory that’s spared more than 23,000 acres of old growth forest from potential clear cuts across Prince of Wales Island.

In August, the U.S. Justice Department signaled it would appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But government lawyers reversed course and withdrew the case on October 20.

The case centered around the U.S. Forest Service’s environmental review of the Prince of Wales Landscape Level Analysis. The agency didn’t include site-specific information over areas that could be logged. The federal court agreed the process was flawed and ruled that the agency would need to restart its process to bring timber to market.

That’s already happened. The Forest Service has begun preliminary work on the Twin Mountain II timber sale which could potentially offer as much as 3,000 acres of old growth for logging that had been been part of the larger Prince of Wales project.

Timber industry representatives had supported the project saying it would supply the region’s mill with needed timber and support local jobs.