Support our communities, the Tongass and our homes, not outside environmental groups.
In 1989 the Forest Service proclaimed the timberlands outside of the Congressional non-development set-asides could sustain an annual harvest level of 1,950 million board feet annually, without adverse impacts to fish, wildlife or recreation. In those days the Forest Service was selling only about 400 million board feet of saw timber annually, yet in 1990 Congress acceded to environmentalist’s demands by placing another million acres off limits to multiple-use, while proclaiming that “not a single job will be lost.” That’s not how it turned out. In total, Congress has now set aside about 40 percent of the Tongass and the Forest Service has administratively set aside another 51 percent. That leaves only 9 percent of the forest accessible, and the feds have been closing many of the existing roads and the agency has placed all but 2 percent of the forest off limits to timber harvesting. Is it any wonder the state is seeking a couple million acres from the 17-million acre Tongass to support logging, mining, energy development and transportation corridors throughout the region?
Now environmental groups are again demanding more set asides and they have demanded that the government abandon a century of professional forest management and replace that management with a scheme to harvest young growth trees before they mature and ship the logs to China. These disingenuous groups claim this scheme will protect fish, wildlife and recreation in the region. The truth is, the forest doesn’t need protecting. Wildlife is thriving in the forest, most of the recreational use is in areas that have roads and salmon populations have doubled over the last 60-years, particularly in the most heavily logged watersheds. The Forest Service did a good job managing the forest for a hundred years, but the agency has been forced to stray from their multiple-use directive. This unhappy situation is occurring in much of the western USA, but it really hurts here in Southeast Alaska where some 95 percent of the land is managed by the feds.
We support the Governor’s two-million acre State Forest proposal. We don’t want federal handouts; we want access to the resources in our region so we can make a living while contributing to the nation’s economy.
• Lori Blood of Juneau is President of the Southeast Conference.