A recently approved U.S. Forest Service timber sale involving 936 acres of the Tongass National Forest near Tenakee Springs has some residents concerned about the fate of subsistence food-gathering in the area.
"Our hackles are up a little bit," Tenakee resident John Wisenbaugh said Tuesday. "One part of the sale road goes into an unroaded area that's very important to the community for subsistence hunting and fishing."
Wisenbaugh said he hunts deer and ducks in the Inbetween Creek area of Tenakee Inlet. What's called the Finger Mountain sale calls for construction of a temporary drive-down ramp log transfer facility in that area. The Forest Service said the facility will be removed at the completion of the logging, which will take two to four years.
The Tenakee Springs City Council has gone on record dozens of times in the past three decades opposing logging in surrounding areas, according to the city clerk. It's unclear whether the Council in the town, 50 miles southwest of Juneau, will appeal the Forest Service decision.
Wisenbaugh said residents also are concerned that the sale targets yellow cedar, which he contends is exported out of the country.
"There's no jobs associated with it in secondary manufacturing," he said. "And the Forest Service has not been able to successfully regenerate yellow cedar, so when it's gone, it's gone."
But the Forest Service says the sale will provide a boost to the local economy.
"The Finger Mountain decision will create jobs in Southeast Alaska and supply the raw materials needed by local, family-owned mills to help keep them operating," said Tongass National Forest Supervisor Tom Puchlerz.
Sitka District Forester Rick Abt said several mills could potentially bid on the sale once it is advertised, including mills in Hoonah and Ketchikan, or small operators in Tenakee Springs, Hoonah or Sitka.
"Specific units have been selected to be sold as part of one or more small sales. These small sales are intended to meet the needs of small operators, a factor cited as important by Tenakee Springs residents as well as the Chichagof Conservation Council," which is based in Tenakee, Abt said.
Puchlerz also said the Forest Service's standards protect fish and wildlife for subsistence and other uses.
The Finger Mountain sale is in a roadless area, but was in the planning stage before the Clinton-era roadless rule was signed, and therefore grandfathered in.
The rule prohibits timber harvesting and road-building within about 58 million acres of the 192-million-acre national forest system. About 9.6 million acres of Southeast Alaska's 16.8-million-acre Tongass have been designated roadless.
A federal judge in Wyoming struck down the roadless rule late last month. That ruling is subject to appeal.
Appeals must be filed by Sept. 18. They may be directed to Rick Abt; Sitka Ranger District; 204 Siginaka Way; Sitka, Alaska 99835, or faxed to (907) 747-4253.
Masha Herbst can be reached at email@example.com.
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