Effects of Tongass road measure exaggerated

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, June 27, 2004

When the U.S. House of Representatives stopped the Forest Service from building new logging roads in the Tongass last week, Sen. Murkowski claimed that the timber industry would "die, putting another 1,000 Alaskans" out of work.

Sen. Murkowski exaggerates. In 2002 the Forest Service counted fewer than 200 timber jobs in the Tongass - of which approximately one-third were held by non-Alaskans.

The senator also claimed that stopping new road construction will kill the timber industry because it will "deny [it] access to any new timber."

Again, the senator exaggerates. According to Forest Service data there is more than 390 million board feet of timber either immediately available or soon to be available to the timber industry from the more than 5,000 miles of roads already built on the Tongass. At current cutting levels, 390 million board feet will keep the industry in timber for a decade without building a single mile of new road.

The senator fails to mention that the House of Representatives' action does not stop the logging operators from building the roads themselves. They won't, of course - they'd much rather the U.S. taxpayer built the roads for them.

This is the issue that the senator has tried to obscure with her rhetoric: Our hard-earned dollars are supporting an industry that can't compete on its own.

Mark Rorick


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