SEACC and other conservation groups' successful settlement of the lawsuit over the Fusion timber sale is a great example of how the Forest Service can safeguard valuable forest lands while supplying timber to local logging companies.
Under the win-win settlement, Viking Lumber and the Forest Service will go ahead with a 32 million board foot sale without logging in a nearby roadless area. The Forest Service will also shrink the term of Viking's contract from 10 to five years.
The Alaska Forest Association misunderstands the suit's purpose when it claims it was a "delaying tactic." The suit was not a challenge to most of the logging itself, it was a challenge to the timber sale's 10-year contract. Starting up 10-year contracts, at a time when the agency is busy canceling other timber contracts left and right, galls many business owners around Southeast. As one tourism business owner said, "I have enough trouble getting a one-year permit. Why should a mill get special treatment?"
The Fusion agreement shows that the Forest Service can and should be more responsible in balancing the needs of the mills with those of hunters, fishermen, tourism businesses and all the other people who use the forest. Instead of locking up the forest with irresponsible and unnecessary 10-year timber contracts, the agency can avoid cost and controversy by designing short-term sales on existing roads.