US House Votes Spending Millions
on Logging Roads Isn't Good Investment
May 19, 2006
Thursday the U.S. House agreed that spending taxpayer dollars
on building logging roads on the Tongass National Forest is not
a good investment. The amendment to the Interior Appropriations
bill which calls for ending subsidies for logging roads was sponsored
by Republican Representative Steve Chabot of Ohio and Democrat
Robert Andrews of New Jersey. It passed 237 to 181.
According to the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, the Chabot/Andrews
amendment is supported by nearly 80 Southeast Alaskan businesses
and 21 outfitter and guiding businesses.
"Southeast Alaskans rely
on and care about the health of the Tongass. The Forest Service
has to balance the needs of other users of the forest with those
of the timber industry-that means not wasting money on logging
roads, but using their limited funds to support growing sectors
of the economy," says Beverly Anderson, Business and Community
Outreach Coordinator of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.
The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council says that many Tongass-dependent
businesses are concerned that while the Forest Service is subsidizing
a struggling industry, which contributes less and less to Southeast
Alaska's economy, projects that would support other growing sectors
of our region's economy are short on funds. The spending priorities
of the Forest Service focus on road building and large timber
sales, while projects such as tourism planning, review of special
use permits for hunting and fishing businesses, cabin and trail
building and maintenance, and fish and wildlife habitat restoration
all lack adequate funding.
Gregory Vickrey of the Tongass
Conservation Society said, "This is a clear and major step
towards conserving this incredible rainforest and preserving
the benefits it provides to the quality of life for us that live
here as well as a step towards the multiple use mandate the Forest
Service is required by law to subscribe to." He said, "Businesses
that depend on the Tongass related to tourism, commercial and
sport fishing, and sport hunting won today. Subsistence users
won today. Taxpayers won today. All of us who enjoy this great
ecosystem won today."
The Southeast Alaska Conservation
Council says industries such as recreation, tourism, commercial
and sportfishing, and hunting are significant contributors to
the regional economy and in fact provide many more jobs than
does the Tongass timber industry.
Citing the most current employment statistics from the Alaska
Department of Labor and Work Force Development , the Southeast
Alaska Conservation Council says the statistics show that in
2004, average monthly employment in the scenic and sightseeing
industry was 586 people, and 1,450 in seafood processing. Commercial
Fisheries Entry Commission data show that there were 1,964 active
fishermen in 2004, not including crew members. By contrast, only
300 people were employed in logging and forestry in Southeast
"People come here to see
this amazing place we live in," says Jai Crapella of Spirit
Walker Expeditions in Gustavus. "Spending so much money
on these logging roads is inappropriate. I think the Forest Service
is starting to catch on, but they need to put more money into
supporting tourism businesses."
"My family and I are small
mill owners. While we support the use of forest products we cannot
approve of the Forest Service's unbalanced use of their funding,"
says Gordon Chew. "An effort to serve the small mills and
fledgling industries is a good place for Forest Service priorities."
Joel Hanson of The Boat Company said, "The Forest Service
needs to update its priorities. A lot of people depend on the
Tongass for their businesses, and the agency needs to support
them and stop wasting money."
Gregory Vickrey of the Tongass Conservation Society said, "The
bill will next go to the Senate, and one can reason that if passed,
the Forest Service will be better equipped to fund programs related
to tourism planning, cabin and trail building and maintenance,
and fish and habitat restoration all of which are woefully
under-funded historically, even though the latest statistics
from the State demonstrate tremendous growth and opportunity
in these areas."
"Local support of this
bill played a vital role in it getting passed, and those of us
that live here are the ultimate beneficiaries. As it moves forward
to the Senate, we look forward to seeing even more bipartisan
support for this bill that further addresses our quality of life,"
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