Sen. Stevens' recent backdoor congressional action to impose time limits on filing appeals and court decisions on Tongass timber sales is just one more attempt to limit the options concerned citizens have in challenging timber companies and the Forest Service when they move to log the remaining wildlands of the Tongass. This is - at the very least - undemocratic, and it should be criminal.
Sen. Murkowski's backdoor action is the other head on the two-headed beast. She wants to make certain the Forest Service has the authority to cancel previously sold timber sales that turn out to be uneconomical for timber companies. This move will presumably make it easier for the ancient forests to be resold under long-term contracts that will be considerably worse deals for both taxpayers and those concerned about the ecological integrity of the Tongass.
If we are to truly balance the needs of the various users of the Tongass, our senators need to end their favored treatment of the timber industry. The U.S. Forest Service already spends more than twice as much on logging activities than it does on tourism in the Tongass, despite Tongass tourism generating more money and jobs for the region than timber harvesting. Our senators are working hard to prop up an industry that can't cut it economically without huge sweetheart deals, while also helping to destroy the resources that make S.E. Alaska so unique, beautiful and economically viable. It is time for our senators to recognize the error in their ways and listen to the majority of the public who want greater protections for Tongass wild places.
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