Alaska Forest Association spokesman Owen Graham's statement that Silver Bay's problem is timber supply is bunk. Right now, Silver Bay owns 16 timber sales, totaling over 60 million board feet - all free and clear of any injunction, and available to log at any time. For contrast, all Southeast operators logged a total of 34 million board feet last year. Silver Bay owns enough wood to dominate the region's logging for nearly two years. And if that wasn't enough, there are over 3 billion board feet of timber on private lands that Silver Bay could bid on, buy and log.
The state of Alaska tells us that roughly a third of the region's timber workers are from out of state, and the Forest Service says that a huge portion of Silver Bay's timber is exported in the round. No matter what one thinks about logging, Silver Bay simply doesn't support Alaskans like it should.
Silver Bay's bankruptcy filing shows the obvious about Southeast Alaska's timber future. The global timber market is in the tank, and nobody can make money off Tongass timber. The Forest Service itself lost more than $36 million on selling Tongass timber last year. That means historic logging practices - large-scale clearcutting with lots of expensive road-building - are obsolete. Gov. Murkowski, Alaska Forest Association and others should find ways to jumpstart small-scale, high value-added ventures that pay their own way and make jobs for Alaskans, like producing duraflame logs and cedar chip-filled dog beds. It would be foolish to react to the bankruptcy announcement by calling for more logging of the Tongass National Forest.
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