Timber program not targeting big trees

Letter to the editor

Posted: Wednesday, August 11, 2004

In 1980, Congress thought they settled the Tongass issues when they designated about a third of the forest as wilderness and limited the timber program to about a 10th of the Tongass. That didn't satisfy the environmental groups. In 1990, Congress passed legislation that set aside more land and set stage for an early end to the long-term timber sales. That didn't satisfy the environmental groups either. In 1997, the Forest Service completed their land management plan and reduced the land base available to the timber program to about 4 percent of the Tongass.

Now the environmental groups say there is still too much logging allowed and it is the wrong 4 percent.

Environmentalists claim the Forest Service is targeting the biggest and best trees. How can this be? The Congressional set-asides were chosen because they had dense timber and spectacular scenery and because they were deemed the most important for subsistence. Industry people know their average log size is only 10-12 inches. The Klawock sawmill just added a small-log side to their operation. The Ketchikan veneer mill is designed to peel small logs. People familiar with the forest know the 1,000-foot beach fringe buffers and the 200-foot stream buffers and the extensive system of old-growth habitat reserves all contain the highest percentage of "big trees."

How is it then that the Forest Service can be accused of targeting the biggest and best for the timber program?

Bert Burkhart

Ketchikan



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