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Timber Industry in Southeast Alaska
by Owen J. Graham


April 22, 2005

Dear Mr. Jackson:

Thanks for your quick response to my April 11 letter. I think we may be talking past one another, so I ll offer the following comments:

· Most of the sawmills in Southeast Alaska try to maintain a diverse customer base. A small percentage of the lumber is sold to flitch customers, some of the timber, particularly some of the spruce logs, are custom cut but most of the timber is cut for the domestic markets in the Pacific Northwest.

· Our mills must process the entire range of timber: small logs, large logs, high defect logs, low defect logs and four primary species of timber. The mills you mentioned have told us that the lumber you inquired about comes from only a small percentage of the timber they must process. Currently, not all of the products produced from this wide range of timber can be manufactured here in Alaska. For instance, we no longer have pulp mills to utilize the pulp logs and the residual sawmill chips.

· The Southeast Conference has been examining a potential Medium Density Fiberboard facility that would process the pulp logs and residual chips that used to be utilized by the pulp mills.

· Many of the sawmills in Alaska have dry kilns and other secondary manufacturing equipment. Much of this equipment was made available through federal grant programs. The grant programs were initiated primarily through the efforts of Jack Phelps when he was the Executive Director for the Alaska Forest Association.

· Our Association works for the benefit of the entire timber industry including private and public landowners, small and large manufacturers, road builders, loggers, consulting foresters and a wide range of Associate members. The Associate Members include a very wide range of businesses and associations that support the timber industry. We do not support issues for one segment of the industry at the expense of any other segment.

· Our vision for our communities and the timber industry is to provide year around, good paying jobs, health insurance, pension benefits and a reasonable level of job security. We believe this will require both large and small operators.

· The Forest Service has many good foresters; unfortunately, current federal rules and regulations do not permit them to practice good forestry in all cases.

  • Currently there are several thousand acres of wind thrown timber rotting away in Yakutat. Much of this timber blew down five or more years ago. The Forest Service could not even plan for salvaging most of that timber until Alaska was exempted from the Roadless Rule. Now it is the long NEPA process that is delaying the salvage. Meanwhile the timber rots.
  • Hundreds of millions of board feet of timber was killed on Dall Island about ten years ago. This timber, like the timber at Yakutat, was not salvaged. It rotted.

· The Forest Service land in Southeast Alaska covers about 17 million acres. About 10 million acres are forested and over 5 million of these acres are considered commercial timberlands . Only about 400 thousand acres (8%) of the commercial timberlands have been harvested in the last 50 years. The forest can easily support a large, sustainable timber sale program on about a third of the commercial timberlands. This would leave two-thirds of the commercial timber and 90% of the total Forest Service land in Southeast Alaska untouched.

· One of the realities of having a functional timber sale program in Southeast Alaska is the cost of constructing access roads and harvesting timber in a responsible manner. This cost cannot be borne by small operators alone. It takes large amounts of capital and sufficient timber to amortize those expenditures as well as to amortize the investments in manufacturing facilities.

Again, instead of supporting a ban on all log exports, we suggest that a more responsible course of action is to help us secure a reliable timber supply that is adequate to support a fully integrated, competitive manufacturing industry. This way the mills will be able to purchase the logs they need and the timberland owners won t have to sell their timber at discounted prices.

I would like to visit your facility and talk further with you when I return to Ketchikan.


Owen J. Graham
Executive Director Alaska Forest Association
Ketchikan, AK - USA

Related Viewpoint:

letter The state of wood manufacturing in Alaska by Larry Jackson - Ketchikan, AK - USA


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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.



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