The Tongass Future Roundtable concluded its first meeting of the year on Thursday with more decisions made, namely, what the Roundtable’s future will entail.
Region stakeholders discussed the Roundtable’s role in connecting the various, and sometimes conflicting, roles throughout the two-day Juneau meeting. Everything from timber products to conservation issues, land management to Native issues has something at stake when decisions are made. The Roundtable tries to aid such cooperation through these meetings since decisions regarding one aspect affect the others.
A large part of this meeting was to decide how the Roundtable can satisfy such diverse interests.
“This is a very challenging grouping of folks who have historically been at odds, so we’re all coming together to try to resolve things and work together,” said Lindsey Ketchel of the Roundtable Administrative Committee. She is also executive director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. “And that is very difficult so sometimes folks really question whether we can be successful.”
Ketchel and others on the committee believe they can, and so will meet again, tentatively within a month, to take the ideas presented here and determine a conclusion in what role the Roundtable will play in the future. State Forester Chris Maisch, who also served as a facilitator for the Roundtable Administrative Committee, said this will include the decision to have such future meetings, which currently are held three or four times a year.
“From my perspective, the Roundtable was going through a thoughtful, deliberate process of asking about its future role. For two days, the members went through a reflective process and I’m encouraged there’s still interest and commitment in moving forward,” she said.
The committee will also examine its leadership style and meeting structure. Maisch said another point was to examine narrowing its list of topics to help it be more efficient in areas that are needed.
“The result is that there’s still lot of interest in continuing the Roundtable as a forum in discussing these issues,” Maisch said.
Several such issues came to the surface throughout the gathering. The Roundtable heard about the challenges the timber industry faces in the region, status updates on second growth studies, the Forest Service’s transition in strategic planning to using Cluster Working Groups and challenges native groups are facing there.
Southeast Alaska Landless Corp. President Cecilia Tavoliero said the Roundtable will also deliberate on how to act in regard to supporting legislation on land settlement issues.
Ketchel said she sees changes and quality improvements ahead for the Roundtable. She said it will still be challenging since every sector has its own interest but can still work together.
“At least from the state perspective, our key interest is implementing the 2008 Tongass Land management Plan so the forest products industry has a future in the Tongass,” Maisch said.
The next full Roundtable meeting will be in May in Hydaburg on Prince of Wales Island.
• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.