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Tongass National Forest to release Big Thorne Project

Posted: October 26, 2012 - 12:02am

The Tongass National Forest will be releasing the Big Thorne Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for a 45-day review and comment period. The comment period is expected to start once the Notice of Availability (NOA) is published in the Federal Register today, Oct. 26.

This DEIS proposes to harvest timber from approximately 5,000 acres in Southeast on Prince of Wales Island, south of Coffman Cove, around the community of Thorne Bay and out to the Control Lake area north of Klawock.

“The importance of this project cannot be overstated,” said Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole. “It is the first project in many years that has real potential to provide stability to the local timber industry in Southeast Alaska, and the rural communities that benefit from that industry.”

An objective of the Big Thorne Timber Sale is to offer relief to those communities affected by a declining timber industry. This project would supply timber to local sawmill operators for up to 10 years.

The DEIS evaluates a no-action alternative and four action alternatives that would provide between 93 and 189 million board feet of timber available for harvest. Three of the five alternatives include more than 2,000 acres of older young-growth treatments. None of the alternatives include entry into inventoried roadless areas. The significant issues addressed by the alternatives include: timber supply and economics; old-growth habitat land use designation; wildlife and subsistence use; and watershed effects.

“Each of the action alternatives offers a range of potential employment opportunities and would provide long-term economic stability to local economies in varying degrees,” said Perry Edwards, Acting Thorne Bay District Ranger.

The Proposed Action for this project is Alternative 2. This alternative proposes to harvest about 123 MMBF of timber on about 4,944 old-growth acres, the construction of 35 miles of temporary roads, and the reconstruction of 19 miles of National Forest System roads. The commercial thinning of young-growth stands is not included in this alternative, however it is covered in the other alternatives analyzed in detail.

The Forest Service is considering the use of stewardship contracting authority to implement any future sales from the Big Thorne Project. Stewardship contracting helps achieve land management goals while meeting local and rural community needs, including contributing to the sustainability of rural communities and providing a continuing source of local income and employment. It focuses on the “end result” ecosystem benefits and outcomes, rather than on what is removed from the land.

An additional benefit from the use of the stewardship contracting authority is that receipts paid for the harvested timber can be reinvested in local projects such as stream restoration, wildlife habitat improvement, pre-commercial thinning of young-growth stands, and other similar projects. The retention of the receipts and the reinvestment of those funds add greatly to job creation beyond those of the timber project itself.

The comment period for the Big Thorne Project DEIS provides the public an opportunity to make their concerns known prior to the Forest making a final decision. Those who provide comments by the close of the comment period will be eligible to appeal the decision. The DEIS is available online at: http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/fs-usda-pop.php/?project=31542.

In all correspondence, please include your name, address, and organization name, if a person is commenting as a representative of an organization. Written, faxed, hand-delivered and electronic comments will be accepted as follows:

• Written comments can be faxed to (907) 828-3309 or mailed to:

Tongass National Forest

Thorne Bay Ranger District

Attn. Big Thorne Bay Project EIS

P.O. Box 19001

Thorne Bay, AK 99919-0001

• Hand-delivered comments should be brought to the Thorne Bay Ranger District, 1312 Federal Way, Thorne Bay, AK 99919. The hours for submitting hand-delivered comments are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.

• Electronic comments must be submitted with the following subject line, “Big Thorne Project,” and as part of the actual e-mail message, or as a .doc, .txt, .pdf, or .rtf attachment to: comments-alaska-tongass-thorne-bay@fs.fed.us.

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