RE: Time for timber to face the harsh realities of their own making
By Owen Graham
April 16, 2016
I'd like to offer a few corrections to the Boat Company letter that was posted on Sitnews on Friday, April 8, 2016.
The Boat Company letter says Viking Lumber is threatening to close down unless they can continue cutting down old growth trees. What the Boat Company does not seem to understand is that sawmills cannot physically manufacture lumber without a log supply. It is just a reality, not a threat.
Next the Boat Company asserts that the old-growth trees are ecologically irreplaceable and old-growth logging has been incredibly destructive to bears, salmon, birds, wolves, and other wildlife. Actually, the old-growth trees are a renewable resource and all of the past timber harvest areas are fully restocked and growing very well. How long the trees will be allowed to grow is a different issue.
The average old-growth trees are about 200 years old and the normal harvest age for the young growth stands is about 90 to 100 years. At that age, the young growth will have about double the volume of the original stands and the trees will have little or no defect and will be large enough to sustain a profitable sawmill operation. If the young trees are harvested sooner, as proposed by the Wilderness Society and the current political appointees in Washington DC, the volume will be less than the original stands and the trees will be too small to support a profitable sawmill operation.
The Boat Company must also be unaware that the salmon runs have doubled since logging commenced, particularly in the most heavily harvested watersheds like the Harris River and Staney Creek. Logging has not harmed fish habitat.
The Boat Company is also misinformed about wildlife and logging. Wildlife populations are doing fine in the areas that we have harvested in the past. Wolf populations on Prince of Wales Island may be at a low cycle now, but not because they are starving; there are lots of deer for them to eat. In addition, many of the logging roads that were constructed are used by hunters, sport fishermen and other recreationists.
The Boat Company claims that the timber companies have benefited from vast public subsidies. That's simply false. Granted, the Forest Service often spends more on its environmental impact statements than it receives in stumpage from timber companies, but that is not a subsidy to the timber industry. The industry receives no benefit from those environmental impact statements and the industry pays competitive prices for what little timber is made available. By the way, the Forest Service made a significant profit on the Big Thorne timber sale that is currently being harvested on Prince of Wales. That's because it is a big, cost effective project comprised of mature (old growth) timber.
Thanks for the opportunity to correct the Boat Company's misstatements.
Received April 14, 2016 - Published April 16, 2016
About: Owen Graham is the Executive Director of the Alaska Forest Association. "The AFA is a non-profit business association that was formed in 1957 to represent the interests of the timber industry in Southeast Alaska. The AFA currently manages a pension program, a group health insurance program, a scholarship program for the timber industry and also sponsors the Sustainable Forestry Initiative program for Alaska. Our members businesses and their employee s lives are dependent upon a reliable supply of timber."
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