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6 leave Tongass Futures Roundtable just before spring meeting

Posted: May 17, 2011 - 8:44pm

The Tongass Futures Roundtable has lost six members just before its spring meeting. Those that left say the Roundtable has not progressed in stabilizing timber sales and the bureaucratic process has been too slow.

A press release states those leaving include Coffman Cove City Administrator Elaine Price, Wrangell Economic Development Director Carol Rushmore, Wrangell Borough Manager Tim Rooney, Petersburg City Manager Scott Hahn, Petersburg Community Development Director Leo Luczak and former Craig Mayor Dennis Watson.

Norman Cohen of the Roundtable said there are now 22 members left.

“The small communities that pulled out joined because they’re interested in the timber issue and land management because it’s been such a battle for the last 20 years,” said Price. “Our goal was to come up with some common ground for a sustainable timber industry. The Roundtable hasn’t made any headway in that direction and just drained away from that idea.”

Price said other issues have taken a large part of the Roundtable’s time, such as Native issues and the Sealaska Lands Bill. She said it’s “been a great venue to learn about Native issues,” but that isn’t the topic many had signed on for.

Luczak said he left because the organization was more of a mind that all decisions had to be unanimous before agreements were made, thus inhibiting progress.

He said it seemed like every member had veto power in decisions they didn’t agree with and some declared they would not compromise on issues.

“We were trying to find a way to have a decent timber supply so small mills could keep in operation but after five years very little progress has been made,” said Luczak.

“There was just this policy and it was not going anywhere,” he said.

The release states that consensus there doesn’t work with several members living outside Southeast Alaska and differences in priorities. It states those leaving feel the organization failed in agreements, resolutions and the agenda.

It also states those six felt proposals by the timber industry were consistently rejected for creating too much impact to newly identified critical habitat areas.

Just because they’ve left this organization doesn’t mean the members have given up their cause. Price said they hope the new state timber task force will solve issues with the industry.

“Those that participated in Tongass Futures Roundtable really appreciated the nature conservancy’s effort and the foundations that funded it. It was a good try,” she said.

Although smaller, the Roundtable intends to continue business as usual for the time being.

“The Roundtable’s view is that there are still lots of important issues that need to be addressed and our members are committed to those issues,” said Cohen.

The Roundtable is meeting in Hydaburg today and Wednesday.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at jonathan.grass@juneauempire.com.

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