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My Turn: The Tongass needs your voice

Posted: February 25, 2014 - 1:01am

The U.S. Forest Service would like to hear from individuals who have a strong interest in collaborating on a timber management plan for the Tongass National Forest.

As a United States Department of Agriculture agency, we continue to invest in diversifying economic opportunities for communities in Southeast Alaska, including shifting to a largely young-growth based timber program. We are committed to maintaining an inclusive and collaborative path in the forest’s transition to young growth. To that end, the Forest Service is inviting community members to apply for membership on the Tongass Advisory Committee. This panel of 15 stakeholders will provide advice over the next year on a strategy for transitioning the timber program, specifically through a modification of the 2008 Tongass Land Management Plan.

Because of the breadth and diversity of interests in the Tongass National Forest and the array of resources found in the nearly 17 million acres of public lands on the Tongass, we are seeking a broad, representative group of stakeholders to serve on the TAC. Since mid-January, we have made significant efforts to reach out to myriad interest groups, including:

• Federally recognized tribes, Alaska Native organizations and Alaska Native corporation representatives.

• Environmental and conservation organizations.

• Timber industry representatives.

• Federal, state and local government representatives.

• Other commercial forest users, those holding land use permits and the public at large.

Participation on the TAC is voluntary and unpaid, although participants’ travel and per diem associated with committee meetings will be covered. While we expect to include members from the broader, national communities of interest, it is critical that we secure strong representation from local communities, which have the strongest ties to the forest and the greatest investment in its resources.

The work of this committee will have deep, lasting and tangible impacts on the forest and surrounding communities of Southeast Alaska.

Nominations for membership on the committee must be received by March 7, 2014. Applications are available on the Tongass website at www.fs.usda.gov/tongass. If you feel committed to providing a voice on behalf of one of the interest groups mentioned above, please consider applying. Staff from the Tongass and the Alaska region will review every application we receive and make recommendations for the USDA secretary’s approval in early March. Fifteen members and one alternate for each category will be selected. We anticipate that the TAC will have its first meeting this June, with regular meetings thereafter.

Serving on the Tongass Advisory Committee is a rare and excellent opportunity to be directly involved in a collaborative effort to contribute to future stewardship of the Tongass National Forest.

• Beth Pendleton is the regional forester with the U.S. Forest Service Alaska Region.

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