Conservation concerns

Posted: Monday, July 21, 2003

I think it's a red herring for Lew Williams and Tom Abbott to aggressively criticize Elizabeth Arnold for the technical errors in her report on the Tongass. Her interview reveals a substantially more sophisticated understanding of the issues on the Tongass then either Lew or Tom presented.

The real issue does not revolve around how much forest is left. When Elizabeth Arnold referred to the large portion of the Tongass that was "rock and ice," she was commenting on the generally unproductive character of this forest. Elizabeth Arnold has learned that most of the big trees, and most of the historic logging, have been concentrated along the beach fringes and in the valley bottoms of islands in Southeast Alaska. This high-grading of the biggest and best stands of old-growth trees has been a long-standing concern to wildlife biologists, and is a trend that scientists and conservationists have focused on. That is why many respected scientists who are familiar with the Tongass forest have supported the Roadless Rule, and why the former administration sponsored it. Lew Williams appears to be unaware of the strong scientific support for including the Tongass in the Roadless Rule. He ends up talking past the issue. Elizabeth Arnold is an experienced national reporter who cut her teeth working in Juneau for KTOO radio. She knows the issues well, and we are lucky to have her covering Alaska issues. When one gets beyond the pie-chart analysis that Lew Williams dusts off three or four times a year, there are some significant conservation concerns on the Tongass. The previous administration recognized them, and the current administration does not. Elizabeth Arnold, to her credit, at least made an effort to explain in more depth, which is what we value about the reporting on National Public Radio.

John W. Schoen, Ph.D.

Senior Scientist

Audubon Alaska


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