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Timber industry jobs at risk

Posted: June 12, 2011 - 7:13pm

Sealaska Corporation wants to make their remaining land selections from areas that will support continued forestry operations. The Alaska Forest Association wants that too. The lack of access to timber from federal lands has already cost us too many jobs in this region; we can’t afford to lose the Sealaska jobs as well. I have reviewed the areas that are available for selection within the original ANCSA guidelines and I agree that the legislation is necessary because the remaining timberlands in these areas will not sustain long-term, economic operations.

There are some who do not want the timber industry to continue in Southeast Alaska. They hypothesize that timber harvest, particularly in certain stands identified in the legislation would threaten critical habitat for goshawks and wolves. It won’t! State and federal biologists have identified 21 separate biogeographical provinces (ecosystems) in Southeast. Most of these regions have more than 90 percent of the original old-growth stands remaining and none have less than 70 percent. The legislation will not change those percentages and there is no risk to wildlife or fish habitat; only our timber jobs are at risk.

Besides, Sealaska is a good steward of their land; I have seen this with my own eyes. Yes, over the last 30-years they harvested much of the mature timber that is not protected by Sealaska because it is in eagle buffers, municipal watersheds and in other sensitive areas from the lands that have already been conveyed. Remember that the lands they have chosen to harvest are managed for timber growing. Virtually all of the harvested areas support fast-growing, young-growth trees that will supply timber to the next generation. A third of the land identified in the current legislation is older young-growth that will make Sealaska’s transition to young-growth harvesting occur more quickly. Sealaska funds ongoing research to insure water quality, fish and wildlife habitat and timber values are maximized and their harvest operations are performed in compliance with the State Forest Practices Act. This is a good company that will take good care of whatever lands they manage; we don’t want to lose these timber operations or the jobs that they support.

Owen Graham

Executive Director

Alaska Forest Association

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