This column is about the future of the Tongass Futures Round Table (TFR).
The TFR at the start was created to be a platform to get wilderness protection, by legislation, for about 4 million acres.
It was thought by some environmental groups, and some non-profit foundations, that this could happen through a stakeholder process.
If they could get the timber industry’s support for it then they could get support from the State’s delegation. They worked this process for four years, spending millions of foundation dollars.
The result of the process was a proposal from a TFR subcommittee, ‘the Devil’s Club” to give the timber industry 1 million acres of the Tongass, for alpine to beach clear-cutting, in return for 4 million acres of watered-down wilderness protection. When the proposal was put on the table there was, of course, absolutely no consensus for such a thing, from both sides. The timber solution was dead in the water.
The TFR then took up other issues, including energy and mariculture. But the Sealaska land exchange was the big one, and now the Alaska Native Landless bill has been added on.
Getting a consensus vote to support either of these has not happened and is doomed to fail. So to the future.
The TFR is now trying to find a rational for keeping itself going.
This is hard because the TFR has not got even one real action vote done, for legislation, over the last five years. They have decided to have just one more meeting, at this time, and have asked input from TFR members about what the TFR should work on and if the structure of the TFR should change. I am a alternate member of the TFR and this is what I said.
“The TFR was made to be platform to influence or create legislative actions. It has failed dismally, and this will not change.
The TFR has to stop trying to create support for land exchanges, to ramp up the timber industry, or to create wilderness protection.
There will not be a consensus vote for the landless bill, Sealaska’s bill, the mental health land exchange bill, or for wilderness protection. It just will not happen. Also there will not be a consensus vote to stop consensus voting.
So what to do? First, change the TFR goals. No actions on legislation or land use designations. Next, focus on local non controversial projects that can make Southeast Alaska’s cities and villagers better. Green energy projects should be a high priority. Building a new dock in towns that need one is a good thing also. There are a lot of things that can be done. Make the makeable happen by identifying them and then finding the pot of money to make them happen.
Note, when you have made a lot of small projects happen, add them up and you will see that you have make a big difference in how Southeast communities will survive and prosper.
• Rorick is the Chair of the Juneau Group of the Sierra Club, a past board member of SEACC, a 5 year observer of the TFR, a alternate member for NRDC at the TFR and he is speaking for himself only.