Tongass Futures Roundtable begins first meeting of year in Juneau

Posted: Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Tongass Futures Roundtable had its hands full Wednesday during its first meeting of 2011. Stakeholders of all types discussed what strategies are needed in several areas of the Tongass. Discussions will continue today during the Roundtable’s second day of meeting at Temple Sukkat Shalom on Douglas. The public participation session begins at 8:30 a.m., with the rest of the day going dedicated to further talks about the Roundtable’s role in forest management, land allocation and other issues. The day is scheduled to end at 4:30 p.m.

MICHAEL PENN / Juneau Empire
MICHAEL PENN / Juneau Empire

Stakeholders and public participants represented a variety of sectors with interests in the forest. These ranged from those in the forest industry, conservation groups, tribal leaders, government representatives at various levels and some from the fishing industry. A few examples include Sealaska, United Fishermen of Alaska, OceanAlaska, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Trout Unlimited and many others.

With such an extensive audience, many topics were brought forth for discussion, with forestry products, particularly timber, being the primary focus.

One of key issues was bridge timber, bringing up the concern of how such timber is an interim supply to existing operators. There is concern about transitioning from such old growth harvest sales to young growth timber. Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, who is chair of the Roundtable Administrative Committee, and Program Director Norman Cohen said they hope more decisions about this area will be addressed today.

Timber’s role in the Tongass has led to complications on all sides, with people in the industry facing financing difficulties due to limited supply assurances and conservation groups that are concerned about historic logging practices in the Southeast.

Botelho said such conflicts between conservation values, economic values and timber products have often resulted in helped such groups work together and find compatibilities.

A large portion of the afternoon was devoted to looking at economic opportunities and asset management strategies by the Juneau Economic Development Council.

JEDC Executive Director Brian Holst presented an Asset Map that was developed during the fall under a contract with the U.S. Forest Service. The Asset Map describes key resources in the region, including assets, networks and elements of culture that affect how industries operate in Southeast Alaska. There was also discussion of Cluster Working Group approaches that JEDC is utilizing to this effect.

“Now we’re implementing a Cluster development process for Tongass, which looks at those private sector industries that are responsible for the majority of jobs and wealth creation for Southeast Alaskans,” said Holst.

Separate breakout groups formed for discussions on issues like restoration, framework and young growth management. The reports from these discussions will be expounded today.

“Largely, we’ll focus on what direction the Roundtable should take in dealing with the issues,” said Botelho.

Representatives of the mining industry also gave updates on Kensington and Greens Creek on Wednesday for the stakeholders to consider.

Several comments for and against all of these topics rose throughout the day, with one of the most prevalent being the role of subsistence and Native tribal living.

The cooperation and discussion of such cultural and conservation values with the business side of the forest is the main purpose of the Tongass Futures Roundtable. More information can be found at www.tongassfutures.net.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or jonathan.grass@juneauempire.com.



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