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Forest Service denies Central Kupreanof timber appeals

Posted: June 11, 2011 - 10:57pm

The U.S. Forest Service has denied two separate appeals, one from the State of Alaska and another from Greenpeace, concerning the Central Kupreanof timber harvest Record of Decision (ROD).

The two parties had argued on opposite ends of the spectrum, with the State arguing that the Central Kupreanof timber harvest wasn’t enough to justify the project while Greenpeace stated the project doesn’t examine the wildlife aspect closely enough.

The ROD authorizes the harvest of 26.3 million board feet of timber from 1,320 acres with no entry into inventoried roadless areas. The Forest Service states any newly constructed or reconstructed National Forest System roads will be closed following timber sale activities. It also states job creation was incorporated into the decision-making process and the ROD contains restoration and recreation projects.

“The first scheduled sale is for 300,000 board feet, and we expect to receive bids from the local community,” Tongass Forest Management Staff Officer Charlie Streuli says in the release. “Central Kupreanof was designed to produce a series of small-scale sales that could extend the life of the sale area up to 10 years.”

The State believes this amount is not sufficient. Tom Lenhart, the assistant attorney general who represented the state in the appeal, said the approved 26 million board feet for this project is not enough to meet timber demand, but the primary issue goes farther than this one sale.

“The problem for years is the Forest Service simply offers not nearly enough timber to meet the demand for timber in Southeast Alaska and we believe that violates the Tongass Timber Reform Act,” said Lenhart.

Lenhart said the approved sale doesn’t come close to the demand calculated, which he said was in the range of 120-170 million board feet.

He said failing to meet this demand by not producing enough timber goes against the law under the TTRA and hurts the economy.

“The heart of the issue is that the policies of the Forest Service are killing the timber industry,” he said.

Appeal Reviewing Officer Ruth Monahan’s response, concurred by the Forest Service, was that Central Kupreanof “is consistent with all applicable law and the direction in the Tongass Forest Plan regarding management of the timber resource.” Also, the ROD, environmental impact statement and project record are sufficient to support the decision.

The other appeal stated the ROD didn’t properly analyze wildlife affects. Larry Edwards of Greenpeace said the analysis on effects to deer, wolves and subsistence hunting was superficial.

Edwards felt the ruling was also superficial.

“The big issue is they rely heavily on productive old-growth forest, and that’s extremely broad and can hide impacts to various wildlife,” he said.

Edwards said the impact analysis showed the carrying capacity for deer is below the Forest Plan’s standard guideline, but this analysis came after the final ROD draft was completed.

“When they discovered that, it should have triggered what the impacts really are,” he said.

“Instead they said the percentage change in carrying capacity is fairly small so they’re not concerned, but the difficulty here is they need to look at the cumulative impact,” he said, “Which is the impact of past logging in this area and logging that might be done in foreseeable future, and succession of small changes can collectively amount to a very significant impact.”

The appeal response to Greenpeace’s appeal is that the project is necessary and reasonable and concluded that the Central Kupreanof project is justified and in compliance with the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and that deer subsistence uses and effects were adequately considered according to Forest Plan direction, and are in compliance with National Environmental Policy Act.

The record of decision can be implemented within 15 business days following Pendleton’s affirmation. Streuli expects the first sale from this ROD to be offered late this summer or early fall.

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

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