Time to broaden talk about the future

Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2007

John Sandor, in his My Turn, "Free up More Land for Juneau," on Aug. 31, suggested that restoring prosperity in Juneau can be achieved by continuing forest management practices and policies put in place 100 years ago. But, a lot can change in a century, and Southeast Alaska looks very different today than it did when Theodore Roosevelt was president.

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Prosperity and quality of life are values we all still hope the Tongass National Forest can provide, and "wise use" of this shared public resource still makes sense. What no longer makes sense is harvesting timber at the same rates and in the same ways we did in the past. Most of the biggest, most valuable, and easiest to access trees have already been logged.

What timber remains is costly to access, and difficult to sell in today's competitive global marketplace. Given these realities, it is unlikely that the timber industry will be a large growth sector of the Southeast Alaska economy. Instead, our economic future depends on growing industries such as nature-based tourism, and commercial fishing, which rely on maintaining a standing, intact forest. By continuing to build roads and log the forest, we'll be undermining the very resources which can create new jobs and economic opportunities for ourselves and our children.

It is time to broaden the conversation about Southeast's future to opportunities beyond just timber. Gifford Pinchot, who headed the Forest Service when the Tongass was first created, once said, "Where conflicting interests must be reconciled, the question will always be decided from the standpoint of the greatest good of the greatest number in the long run." That's a message we should all heed.

Karen Hardigg

Alaska forest program manager, The Wilderness Society


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