Environmentalists pledge more money to timber study

Group: Study would help transition from old-growth logging

Posted: Thursday, November 26, 2009

A national environmental organization has pledged money toward a timber study that would support new industry in the Tongass National Forest.

The Nature Conservancy contributed $2,500 to a project designed to better understand new timber growth in the region, a study that both conservationists and timber representatives say is needed on the forest. Conservation groups and the timber industry fought for years over the region's timber resource in what became referred to as the "Tongass Wars."

The Nature Conservancy has shown it is sincere about finding solutions, said Owen Graham, who represents timber interests as executive director of the Alaska Forest Association.

"This is very good," he said when hearing of the pledge.

The sides have been communicating through the Tongass Futures Roundtable to find common ground with land managers. Not everyone has a seat at the table, but those that do agree the study is important, members have said.

The Nature Conservancy, a roundtable member, said in a statement announcing the pledge that the new growth study is needed to help answer questions about supply and facilitate the transition from old-growth logging to new growth.

New growth and second-growth are terms used to classify trees in areas that have already been logged.

The Nature Conservancy's funding follows a $10,000 commitment to the study from the Juneau Assembly last month. The cities of Wrangell and Coffman Cove also have made pledges.

The study, estimated to cost $80,000, would inventory public lands for timber harvest and identify the machines and equipment needed to support the industry in the near future.

Southeast Conference, the regional economic development nonprofit organizing the project, is working to attain more funding and get the study underway, Executive Director Shelly Wright said.

At the same time it made its pledge, The Nature Conservancy said the study would only provide a snapshot of the timber value south of Frederick Sound, and a more complete inventory that started in 2005 - but stalled - should be done by next year.

Norm Cohen, The Nature Conservancy's coordinator on the roundtable, said the inventory would be a "catalyst" for jobs and development in Southeast Alaska.

• Contact reporter Kim Marquis at kim.marquis@juneauempire.com.

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