Controversial Emerald Bay
Timber Sale Challenged
March 29, 2006
The long-time struggle by residents of Wrangell, Meyers Chuck,
and Ketchikan to maintain the hunting, fishing, and recreational
uses on the Cleveland Peninsula took a dramatic turn last week
when several local, regional, and national conservation organizations
stood up for concerned Wrangell, Meyers Chuck, and Ketchikan
residents by filing a lawsuit on the Emerald Bay Timber Sale.
Filing of the lawsuit on March
23rd followed the announcement by the United States Forest Service
in February 2006 of the rejection of two appeals that would have
blocked timber sale and the harvesting of 16.4 million board
feet of timber on the Cleveland Peninsula located northwest of
Ketchikan. The appeals rejected in February 2006 assered the
Forest Service had not adequately analyzed the project's economics
and effects on wildlife. Regional forester Dennis Bschor rejected
Emerald Bay Area
Photo courtesy Sitka Conservation Society
Tongass National Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole originally signed
the Emerald Bay Record of Decision in November 2005, approving
the harvest of approximately 16 million board feet of timber
from 600 acres on the Cleveland Peninsula. According to the Forest
Service, the proposed 600-acre project, which is located approximately
40 air miles north of Ketchikan within the Ketchikan - Misty
Fiords Ranger District, would provide nearly 90 jobs in Southeast
"My family has hunted,
crabbed, fished, and trapped on the Cleveland for decades. I
want my kids and their kids to have the chance to do all those
things here. Clearcutting here ignores the growing number of
people who enjoy and love this area for other needs," says
Bob Hunley of Meyers Chuck.
According to opponents of the sale, the Emerald Bay sale lies
within a narrow "pinch point" between upper and lower
Cleveland Peninsula, 40 miles north of Ketchikan. The Forest
Service plans to clearcut over 600 acres and build 6 miles of
road in Emerald Bay, logging approximately 16 million board feet
of wood. The road construction and clearcutting from the sale
will harm this key wildlife corridor. Local guiding businesses,
residents of nearby communities, and subsistence users have opposed
clearcutting this important area for nearly 10 years. A Forest
Service memo (2/17/2000) demonstrates that the real purpose for
the Emerald Bay sale is to provide a foot in the door for contentious
roads and logging in Port Stewart on the currently road-free
"The Forest Service doesn't even know what's out there,
they have no idea how many bears are there, but they want to
go ahead with the sale," says Mark Galla, owner and hunting
and sightseeing guide for Alaska Peak and Seas. "These trips
to Emerald Bay and Vixen Inlet provide close to half of my annual
income. If there is logging in Emerald Bay, it will effectively
kill my chance to guide hunts there."
Opponents say the way the Forest Service conducts large-scale
sales, such as Emerald Bay, works against local small-scale woodworkers.
Between 1998 and 2004, 50-percent of Tongass timber sales offered
received no bids, and 70 percent of sales that sold had only
Beth Antonsen of Ketchikan said, "I can't get small quantities
of high-quality wood for my business, yet the Forest Service
tosses away millions clearcutting areas miles from any mill who
makes high-end wood products such as furniture and boats."
She said, "Who are they working for?"
In addition to limiting or eliminating community uses of Emerald
Bay, the Forest Service claims it will lose $1.5 million tax
dollars on the sale. However, a close examination of agency average
expenses for logging for the last five years reveals that the
agency's loss would actually be closer to between $8 million
and $12 million.
"The Forest Service is living in the past," says Gregory
Vickrey of the Tongass Conservation Society based in Ketchikan.
"Instead of spending money on growing industries, like tourism,
or sustainable industries, like commercial fishing, the Forest
Service is throwing away millions to prop up the timber industry."
"It doesn't make any sense to put out big, money-losing
timber sales that harm local uses when the Forest Service is
justifying them using an illegal forest plan. Even if the plan
is corrected, Emerald Bay is too valuable to cut," says
Dave Sherman of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.
The Forest Service is currently
the process of redoing the Tongass Forest Plan based on an August
4, 2005 decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that found
the Federal Tongass Land Management Plan to be defective because
of a Forest Service error that doubled its projections of market
demand for Tongass timber.
Emerald Bay Legal Complaint
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