The chance to go back to work.
That's the best thing about federal Judge James Singleton's decision to suspend -- at least temporarily -- his March 30 injunction that had effectively ended timber operations on unroaded areas of the Tongass National Forest.
The May 23 announcement means companies with timber under contract can resume logging operations, and we hope they can do so. The original injunction came as a rude shock to businesses that already had crews on the job and were relying on the anticipated wood supply. The unexpected hiatus of nearly two months can't have been easy on the finances of these companies.
Timber officials are expressing relief about Judge Singleton's decision, although it's unclear whether the suspension will become permanent. The next indication will come during a court hearing this month, when Judge Singleton will be meeting with the various parties involved in the lawsuits that sparked the original injunction.
We believe the judge should allow logging operations to continue for the approximately 335 million board-feet of timber already under contract in the Tongass. This is timber was obtained lawfully through the established processes and it represents just a small fraction of the 9.4 million acres of ''roadless status'' lands that are the focus of the lawsuits.
It's important for the government to honor these contracts. Companies of any type need to be able to plan ahead and be reasonably assured that the rules aren't going to change drastically (or arbitrarily) with little notice. Stop-everything injunctions such as the original March 30 order can cause serious economic damage, in addition to undermining the social stability of the individuals and families who depend on those jobs.
For now, people can go back to work. That's a good thing, and we're thankful the judge suspended the injunction.
The next best thing, if it please the court, will be the ability to keep working.
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