Juneau joins neighbors to support 'no action' alternative

Empire editorial

Posted: Friday, August 16, 2002

Tomorrow is the deadline for public comment on the draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) prepared by the U.S. Forest Service for wilderness recommendations on the Tongass.

Communities and organizations throughout Southeast Alaska have joined together in their support of the "no action" alternative, which is the best choice for the future of our region.

In a letter sent to the Forest Service on July 9, Juneau Mayor Sally Smith made a powerful statement of support for all Southeast Alaska communities.

The full text of the mayor's letter follows:

Dear Sir or Madam:

The 16.9 million-acre Tongass National Forest covers 73 percent of the land area of Southeast Alaska. Currently, the Tongass Land Management Plan (TLMP) provides that only about 22 percent of that nearly 17 million acres is available for development, and within that acreage potential development is greatly restricted.

Though harvest of timber in the Tongass has been a contentious subject in recent years, it is a fact that the economy of Southeast Alaska is sagging under the weight of changing federal timber and land use policies. Forest- and timber-related jobs, historically one-third of the region's economy, dropped from 4,600 to 670 during the 1990s. Related payroll is down $100 million.

Federal policies have had a profound effect on the region's economy, an economy that has been in a steady decline. We are seriously in need of an economic transfusion.

A healthy economy requires the investment of private capital, which requires a climate of stability and predictability. The moving target of federal land use policy in Southeast has eroded stability, and the only predictability so far has been that there will continue to be less land open for development of any kind. This uncertainty surrounding federal land use policy in Southeast Alaska has effectively stopped new capital investment in any timber-related operation and stifled investment in non-timber operations.

Any changes to the land use policies of the TLMP that further restrict development potential will continue to negatively affect the region's economy. Alternative No. 1 - no action - provides Southeast Alaska the most potential for needed stability, by continuing the policies so carefully crafted during the TLMP development.

Sincerely,

Sally Smith, Mayor

There is still time to join Mayor Smith in support by e-mailing or faxing your recommendation to the Forest Service to select Alternative No. 1 - no action.

USDA FS Tongass NF

Content Analysis Team

P.O. Box 9079

Missoula, MT 59807

E-mail to: www.fs.fed.us/r10/tlmp/

Or fax to: 406-329-3556

Don Smith

dssmith@juneauempire.com

586-1428



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