KETCHIKAN -- The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly has tentatively agreed to spend $150,000 to help the Alaska Forest Association with future legal bills.
In a letter to the assembly, Forest Association President George Woodbury said the group is engaged in three legal battles over environmental issues. The group has tapped all its resources and come up $150,000 short, he said.
The assembly agreed to put the requested funding into its draft budget for the coming fiscal year. The budget itself has not yet been approved.
Assemblyman Mike Sallee questioned why the borough should fund the group, but Assemblyman Mike Salazar said helping AFA is similar to the borough's support for the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau or other organizations that foster economic development.
The borough's draft 2002 budget includes $97,000 to the visitors bureau, $70,000 to the Small Business Development Center, $20,000 to the Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association and $100,000 to the Alaska Manufacturers Association.
The borough also has offered millions of dollars in loans, grants, subsidies and other support to the Ketchikan shipyard and Gateway Forest Products.
Owen Graham, AFA's executive director, said the group's members pay a special assessment for legal costs, based on each member's timber production from national lands.
The association has raised about $165,000 to sponsor legal actions related to a Tongass Land Management Plan issue, said Graham. A similar amount has been collected to fight legal battles related to log transfer facilities, he said.
But it's not enough, Woodbury said.
"Because of attrition, loss of the long-term sales and reductions in timber supply, the industry is down to a size that we'll not generate the resources necessary to combat the well-funded environmental industry that continues to attack the Tongass timber supply," he said.
Woodbury said timber sales and harvesting decreased 87 percent in the past decade, and a possible ban on road-building in the Tongass will eliminate most of the remaining manufacturing jobs.
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