ANCHORAGE - A logging sale on east Prince of Wales Island could create about 145 timber jobs, according to Ketchikan-based officials with the U.S. Forest Service.
The sale, dubbed Cholmondeley, would provide enough timber to build 2,700 three-bedroom houses, officials said. About 27 million board feet of timber would come from trees cut from the Tongass National Forest, the country's largest national forest.
About half of the volume cut would be cedar, a valuable export species.
"The Cholmondeley decision is the first large-scale timber supply we've been able to offer for about two years and represents a critical step toward supplying the raw materials our local, family-owned lumber mills need to keep operating," said Tongass supervisor Tom Puchlerz.
The Forest Service expects logging to begin in 2004 or 2005, after the timber sale clears an appeal process. The public has until June 24 to file any appeals to the sale with Alaska Regional Forester Denny Bschor.
About 21 miles of road would be constructed through an old-growth forest.
The area, 15 minutes by air from Ketchikan, is exempt from a national policy called the roadless rule, adopted in 2001 in the final days of the Clinton administration, because the timber sale was being planned before the rule took effect, said Dennis Neill, Forest Service spokesman. The roadless rule sought to ban logging and road building on nearly 60 million acres of national forest across the country. Challenges to the controversial policy continue to work through the courts.
The Forest Service maintains that the Cholmondeley timber sale is environmentally sound.
"Streams in the area will still flow with clear, clean water, and fish will swim up and down them freely," Puchlerz told the Anchorage Daily News.
The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council mocked the agency's assertions.
"The Forest Service is ignoring good science and putting clear-cuts in one of the last remaining intact watersheds on east Prince of Wales," said Aurah Landau, a grass-roots organizer for the council.