Re: Southeast Economy and
By Evan Hjerpe
March 31, 2010
Senator Murkowski's letter to the editor in the SitNews on 3/24/10
( Southeast's Economy and Promises ) states that the Sealaska
legislation would bring renewed economic development to Southeast
and is needed for the economic survival of the region. A single-interest
bill that is based on the liquidation of old growth and exporting
processing jobs overseas is by no means the answer to the regional
economic woes of Southeast; this perspective has been echoed
during the recent listening sessions in the region. In fact,
letting Sealaska harvest these lands represents a costly option
in terms of adverse impacts on subsistence opportunities and
the regional economic drivers the Senator alludes to of tourism,
fishing, and trade.
S.881 would take much of the most productive old growth and second
growth acreage out of the national forest, limiting the regional
ecological and economic opportunities associated with these
valuable watersheds. A 2005 McDowell report prepared for Sealaska
illustrates that the direct timber jobs (Full-Time Equivalents)
associated with Sealaska harvests are approximately half of those
associated with Tongass National Forest harvests. Converting
McDowell s job estimates to Full-Time Equivalents (FTEs) shows
that Sealaska generates 2.5 FTE jobs per million board feet of
harvest, while Tongass National Forest harvests generate 4.4
FTE jobs per million board feet of harvest. Additionally, due
to stricter standards and guidelines, watersheds managed by the
Forest Service spur more forest management and planning jobs
than management of private forests. These Forest Service jobs
are extremely important to rural Southeast communities, as they
are year-round and pay livable wages. Decreases in the amount
of public lands in Southeast will be accompanied by decreased
We do not dispute Sealaska's right to their ANCSA entitlements,
but offering the Sealaska legislation as a panacea to the problems
facing the Southeast regional economy is a red herring. S.881
will provide beneficial revenue to Sealaska Corporation, their
subsidiaries, and their shareholders. The regional economic
impact, however, will be limited and could be much greater.
The productive watersheds on Prince of Wales Island under selection
represent some of the most valuable areas on the Tongass for
connectivity, fish production, wildlife habitat, and wood supply.
As a wood basket, these watersheds should be part of a local
production chain. For fish and wildlife connectivity, these
watersheds should be part of a network of reserves across the
Tongass that can provide both beneficial ecological and economic
impacts. Dealing with the economic values of these watersheds
in isolation minimizes their potential aggregate impact.
If social gridlock is limiting economic development on the public
forest, let s find economic activities that receive greater social
acceptability. One such method for increasing social acceptability
would be a transition out of old growth clearcutting and into
a robust restoration and stewardship program on our public lands.
Such a transition could provide significant investments into
our natural capital base, more jobs than traditional timber production,
and a small-scale wood products industry. With a willing Administration
that supports rural economic development and sustainable forest
management, the time is ripe for Senator Murkowski and the Alaska
delegation to be spearheading a truly inclusive, collaborative
solution that can put people back to work in the woods, conserve
high value watersheds, and fulfill Sealaska s entitlements.
As it stands now, S.881 is not the answer to southeast Alaska
s economic problems.
Evan Hjerpe, Ph.D.
About: "Resource Economist,
The Wilderness Society, Alaska Regional Office"
Received March , 2009 - Published
March 31, 2010
Economy and Promises By U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski
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