Juneau could pull out of Tongass Roundtable

The City and Borough of Juneau will soon be considering whether to pull out of the Tongass Futures Roundtable.


Deputy mayor Merrill Sanford called for the Assembly to revoke its resolution of support for the group at its meeting on Monday. The Assembly is expected to hear at its next meeting the background on why it joined five years ago, and why Sanford feels it is time for the city to get out. Sanford said it’s a mess he wants to try and clean up before he leaves. He is terming-out on the Assembly this fall.

Sanford said in that resolution, passed several years ago, many of the “Whereas’s” focused on an integrated timber resource plan and related infrastructure.

“About 5-6 of the ‘Whereas’s’ have never been able to be met,” Sanford said. “Some of it is because of the personalities that are on it, or were on it. Some of the statements that were never worked on. I just wanted to clean that up before I left, to make sure we weren’t supporting an organization I feel is hurting Southeast Alaska.”

Those conditions in the resolution that Sanford feels aren’t making progress included terms that call for timber lands to be managed to provide “steady, reliable and predictable supply or timber to the industry,” and related manufacturing industries in an environmentally sustainable manner.

“So I asked the law department how do we do that, how do we decertify a resolution?” Sanford said.

The Assembly can take a vote to rescind it.

Sanford said this doesn’t exclude support from the organization entirely.

“If they wanted to do something, if they wanted a plan or wanted to do some type of project and if they thought they needed Juneau’s support, they would have to come back and present that to the Assembly,” Sanford suggested. “Let the Assembly decide on that particular plan or path of action so they could say yes or no.”

But he also feels the group is currently heading and been in a direction that the Assembly doesn’t support.

“If you read their charter and their goals, it definitely does not fall in line with my beliefs and other people on the Assembly’s beliefs to where we should be going with the Tongass and employment for our communities,” he said.

Support for the roundtable has been waning as more and more communities and stakeholders are dropping out.

In the last six months, at least nine members have dropped. It currently has 22 members seated, according to its website, and was once capped at 35.

Sanford said that of the communities that have dropped, he would say that they’re in support of “trying to find an economically supportive timber industry and not just locking it up.”

“Everybody has finally stood up and taken their position on it and don’t feel that it’s necessarily a good use of your productive time anymore,” he said. “That’s the reason people have been dropping out these past six months.”

Mayor Bruce Botelho will recuse himself from all discussion on the matter, as he is currently the mediator for the roundtable. Botelho is serving in that capacity independent of the Assembly, so any action the Assembly takes would not inherently affect his role with the roundtable.

Botelho declined to discuss the issues at this time.

A staff member for the roundtable, Norm Cohen, could not be reached for comment on Friday.

For more information on the Tongass Futures Roundtable, go to www.tongass

To review the Assembly resolution, go to http://bit.ly/p7s1FX.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.


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