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Empire editorial: Keep working hard to shape Tongass' future

Posted: February 11, 2011 - 10:50am

It’s tough for a roomful of people with competing interests to agree on uses within the Tongass National Forest, but it is commendable how hard stakeholders who attended the Tongass Futures Roundtable worked together last week to discuss issues and plan ways for the group to work together more effectively.

There’s a lot at stake, including implementation of the 2008 Tongass Land Management Plan, key to making sure the forest products industry has a future there. The group also must reach consensus on other key issues if it is to react in a unified fashion to any proposed legislation that affects the area.

A group with membership as broad as this —mayors, community representatives, lumber interests and tribal leaders — would be a powerful voice and could have a hand in guiding land settlement issues.

The greatest step forward after two days of meetings on Douglas Island was the commitment of its membership to keep working together and meeting four times a year.

This has always been a do-it-yourself state, and members of the Tongass Futures Roundtable are following in that tradition by building their own coalition. It didn’t happen out of thin air. The Roundtable was convened by The National Forest Foundation and The Nature Conservancy, according to its website, and is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Wilburforce Foundation, the Rasmuson Foundation, the Campion Foundation and The Nature Conservancy.

Emotional topics often draw emotional responses. Camps of warring political activists turned our last set of national elections into bad-spirited slugfests. By contrast, these leaders in conservation, government, Native issues and the timber business who, among others, come to the Roundtable meetings are talking — and listening — to diverse and sometimes opposing points of view. The Roundtable meets again in May in Hydaburg, on Prince of Wales Island, with committee meetings in between.

There will be bumps in that road, and perhaps chasms to bridge, but we wish the participants well and salute their efforts and sacrifice as they represent their diverse communities and interests while helping to shape the future of this unique and irreplaceable national treasure.

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