Logjam Timber Sale, & Diesel Timber Sale on POW
February 02, 2010
The State of Alaska has sought intervenor status in two cases: to uphold Alaska's exemption in the Tongass National Forest from the Forest Service's "roadless rule," and to support the Forest Service's authority to proceed with the overall Logjam timber sale and the pending Diesel timber sale.
The Logjam project, includes 3,422 acres identified for logging. The Diesel timber sale includes 1,164 acres identified for logging. The lawsuit claims the Forest Service grossly failed to consider the project's impacts on deer, wolves, and salmon. It asks the court to vacate the agency's decision to proceed with the Logjam Timber project, including the project's recently offered Diesel Timber Sale.
"Our timber jobs are at stake; we have many businesses and families that depend upon timber in the Tongass," Governor Parnell said. "We'll use every tool at our disposal to make sure that the exemption from the roadless rule remains in place and that the Diesel sale can proceed."
"The Forest Service acted within its authority and discretion," said Attorney General Sullivan. "The Tongass exemption came as the result of a settlement agreement with the state, after the state had filed a complaint that the roadless rule violates federal statutes pertaining to Alaska, including the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. If the exemption is repealed or permanently enjoined, the state might have to renew its challenge to the roadless rule itself. It's about the future of the commercial timber harvest in the Tongass."
In 2003, the Tongass was exempted from a rule limiting road-building and logging in roadless areas of national forests. The Forest Service determined at the time that an exemption was needed in order that roads could be built to connect Southeast communities, that utility lines could be constructed and that the timber industry could survive. Industry officials estimate that a workforce of 2,000 could be achieved and sustained with a steady increase in timber sales.
The Viking Lumber Company entered the only bid on the Diesel sale on Dec. 15, offering $1.8 million. The company, the only mid-size mill operating in Southeast, lacks enough timber volume under contract to operate throughout the year.
Kirk Dahlstrom, the general manager of Viking Lumber, said that more than 80 jobs are directly at stake, with a serious spin-off effect in the regional economy.
"If we don't get this timber sale, and if we don't get it in a timely manner, it will be literally the end of us," Dahlstrom told the Attorney General's Office.
In a letter to the governor, Dave Kiffer, Mayor of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, described the economic situation he faces: "Some of our schools are nearly half empty. Our economy is distressed. Our government fiscal capacity is suffering. The smaller population of Ketchikan, faced with a declining economy, remains saddled with the significant debt for schools and other public facilities built for a much larger population. We need help."
Brad Fluetsch, president of Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp 70, rejected assertions by the environmental groups that they are acting partly on behalf of Natives.
"The Native community is tired of being used by environmental organizations to pursue their objectives while they leave our communities in tatters without jobs or affordable energy, and with expensive transportation alternatives," Fluetsch wrote in an e-mail to the Attorney General's Office.
The Tongass, at 17 million acres, is the world's largest temperate rainforest and the largest national forest in the United States, at about the size of West Virginia. About 90 percent of the forest is roadless or designated as wilderness.
According to information provided by the Office of the Governor, the forest provides wood for locally owned sawmills from the 4 percent of the acreage that is available for timber management. Timber industry employment has dropped precipitously in the past two decades, from more than 4,000 workers at the peak down to about 600 in 2008, the last year for which complete information is available.
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