I was disappointed to read the Wilderness Society’s My Turn editorial advocating a Tongass transition to a future economy based on thinning immature stands of timber and performing taxpayer-funded “restoration projects”.
In March 2009, the Wilderness Society sent a letter to the new administration urging them to halt work on old-growth timber sales and instead fund restoration projects. A few months later, the new administration announced a “new approach” to Forest Management in Southeast Alaska. The administration did not develop this new approach with the state or our congressional delegation or our communities; instead, the agency simply adopted the Wilderness Society proposal.
The Wilderness Society editorial has the typical elements of environmentalist fund-raising letters:
• an alleged pending crisis to be averted — protect critical habitat and avoid releasing greenhouse gasses;
• a demon to be overcome — the evil timber industry that damages streams and forest areas;
• a utopian solution — replace timber sale preparation with government funded eco-projects
Here are my comments:
• The editorial greatly exaggerates the Forest Service cost of administering the timber sale program and fails to mention that most of the true cost is for detailed environmental analyses that the environmentalists themselves have demanded. Further, much of the costly analyses are wasted because completed projects are frequently halted by environmental lawsuits.
• The editorial is incorrect, our salmon returns have increased and the water quality is fine; the watersheds have not been degraded by logging.
• The editorial also fails to mention that the wildlife populations are just fine in the logged areas and the young trees are doing well too; they are just not yet mature.
• The editorial incorrectly alleges that large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions will be avoided by halting the harvest of “these giant trees”. The reality is that the world will use the same amount of wood fiber regardless of whether we have a timber industry in Alaska and timber harvesting is carbon-neutral. The timber is not disintegrated after it is cut; it is manufactured into long-lasting forest products. Further, the trees grow back. By the way, while there are some big trees, the average log size from our forest is around ten inches, hardly a forest of giants.
The Wilderness Society should try to learn more about the people and the industry they are criticizing.
Alaska Forest Association
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