Recent critics of the Governor’s Timber Task Force recommendations claim that the establishment of a State Forest from portions of the Tongass would remove federal protections for salmon streams and would hurt fishermen, hunters, tourism operators and others. Those criticisms are unfounded. Both State and Federal land are required to maintain a minimum of a 100-foot salmon stream buffer and the State Forest Practices Act was designed specifically to protect salmon habitat. The Forest Service and the State Division of Forestry have both done a good job of managing timber harvesting without harming stream habitat. In fact, the salmon returns in Southern Southeast Alaska have doubled over the last 50 years, even in the most heavily logged watersheds.
SEACC in particular criticized the Task Force because some of the participants had walked away from the Tongass Futures Roundtable. I was one of those who walked away, but only after five fruitless years of seeking consensus. During those five years we had to endure relentless appeals and litigation on every significant timber sale that was offered by the Forest Service. The employment in our industry declined every year while we participated in the Roundtable.
The State has provided a stable but small timber supply from the limited land they manage in Southeast Alaska. Our goal is to have the State manage about 12% of the Tongass. This will provide our industry a stable timber supply that will allow restoration of the jobs we have lost. We envision several mid-size mills and a number of smaller mills that together will be able to manufacture products from all the different types of trees that grow in the forest. Not just the high-grade logs, but also the low-grade logs. The larger more reliable harvest levels provided by the State Forest will enable the industry invest in new mills and equipment and to construct the necessary logging roads and allow more efficient barging of our wood products.
The State Forest will provide plenty of fish and game and lots of recreation opportunities and the Forest Service will still have 88% of the forest to manage.
Alaska Forest Association