National forests belong to all

Posted: Sunday, December 29, 2002

The Empire reprinted an editorial from the Ketchikan Daily News on Dec. 24 advocating a rollback of the "roadless rule" on America's national forests. The retrograde "leadership" in Ketchikan is still trying to roll back the clock.

Ketchikan squandered virtually all of $25 million plus interest received as Southeast Alaska Disaster Relief Funds - and wasted a unique opportunity to use windfall money promoting truly sustainable local economic development. Instead, they poured that money piecemeal down a rat hole called Gateway Forest Products and chased a bad dream that turned into a nightmare. Ketchikan citizens are now stuck with unpaid bills and ownership of a toxic waste site with more liability than value.

That anyone can take those "leaders" seriously now is amazing - but it seems the Empire is a special case.

Some important facts about America's national forests, including the Tongass:

• America's national forests belong to the American public and not to any particular special interest, group, industry, community or region.

• Almost all U.S. national forests have been heavily impacted by the timber industry in a taxpayer-subsidized assault on timber at the expense of virtually all other interests. The Tongass, though impacted, still contains most of the remaining original forests in our nation, making the Tongass an irresistible target for the timber industry.

• Most of the disastrous fires last summer down south were on "managed" forests already impacted by timbering and not in their original natural states. Most undisturbed natural forests actually require periodic wildfires to sustain health and productivity, and are not permanently damaged by fire. It is false and disingenuous to claim otherwise - as the KDN editorial does.

• The Tongass is the least-disturbed of our national forests; by default it is the most unique, and therefore the most valuable - to all Americans. If we allow the Tongass to disappear too, we will have no more. Shame on those politicians who scheme its destruction and call it "progress" or "development" - we know who they are and who pulls their strings.

Publish the truth and look forward - not backward.

Erik Lie-Nielsen


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