SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


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 the appeals.

jpg Emerald Bay

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 Alaska.

"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 Cleveland Peninsula.

"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 one bidder.

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.


Related Information:

pdfEmerald Bay Legal Complaint

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