Protect the Tongass

Posted: Sunday, April 09, 2000

I am not a radical, but I am for responsible forestry. What I learned during my February visit to Southeast is crazy. Ruthless people have disregarded the magnificent Tongass Forest's fragility and importance to Alaska and our nation. It appears that short term profits from shipping logs and pulp to Asia have completely missed the mark of sustainable economic development for Alaskans. The cut and run mentality of Sealaska and the now-defunct pulp mills is reminiscent of 19th century logging in Maine, Wisconsin, Minnesota and later in Washington and Oregon. It seems that your senators Murkowski and Stevens and Congressman Young are in their game for the wrong reasons. No one is benefiting but a few corporate stockholders, Japanese consumers and themselves; not another person, animal or fish.

My experiences as a pulp mill engineer and research specialist in the forest products industry tell me that what is happening in the Tongass is not the way to do it. The EPA and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation have evidently been totally ineffective. Foresters and mills would never retain license to operate on public or private land in any other state I know of with the corporate practices permitted in Alaska.

Here's a start for what needs to happen. Call for a moratorium on all logging until your leaders get out of school with the knowledge of how to manage renewable resources, protect the environment and turn a profit. Reclaim lost streams and replant every logged acre like the rest of us do. Monitor and rebuild your wildlife stocks. Put your in-state people to work doing this and pay them a wage, not a token subsidy as hush money. Replace your destructive politicians.

Alaska is a magnificent state with some hardy people who respect and love their land. Those citizen's attitudes should prevail.

Bill PetersonTacoma, Washington

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