Parnell: 'Our timber jobs are at stake'

Governor seeks state intervention in Tongass lawsuits

Posted: Friday, February 05, 2010

Gov. Sean Parnell said he would help Southeast's timber industry by fighting environmental groups and others who brought two court cases on the Tongass National Forest.

The governor last week directed Attorney General Dan Sullivan to file motions for intervention in two cases involving timber production and management in Southeast.

"Our timber jobs are at stake; we have many businesses and families that depend upon timber in the Tongass," Parnell said in a statement.

One case involves the Logjam timber sale on Prince of Wales Island approved by the Forest Service in July.

Three environmental groups - Tongass Conservation Society, Cascadia Wildlands and Greenpeace - sought to halt the sale over concerns for wildlife habitat, especially the Alexander Archipelago wolf.

When contacted by Sullivan about the intervention, Tongass Conservation Society President Carol Cairnes said she assumed it was to intervene on the side of environmentalists.

Cairnes said state biologists brought concerns about the wolf to the Forest Service, which then lied in its report about it.

"The governor should reconsider, and switch to the side of honesty in resource planning and the work of the state's professional biologists," Cairnes said in an e-mail.

The Logjam project would provide few jobs, Cairnes said, while hurting those who depend on the forest for jobs in fishing and tourism, and who feed their families with wild foods.

"The governor is pitting Alaskans against Alaskans and is taking sides inappropriately with the timber industry," she said.

The second court case seeks to reverse Alaska's exemption to the Roadless Rule.

The lawsuit was filed in December by the Kake Native community, conservation organizations and a tourism company.

The rule passed in 2001 protects roadless areas in national forests from commercial logging, but was successfully challenged in Southeast by the state and timber groups.

If plaintiffs are successful and overturn the exemption, the state might renew its challenge to the Roadless Rule itself, Sullivan said.

The Obama administration has placed more emphasis on the rule since the president took office.

• Contact reporter Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or kim.marquis@juneauempire.com.



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