Group Notes Progress on Tongass Advisory Committee's Recommendations
May 11, 2017
Following conclusion of the Tongass Advisory Committee’s effort, many members of the group, along with other individuals from the region, have continued to work together as the Tongass Transition Collaborative (TTC) to build on common ground achieved through the Tongass Advisory Committee's process. The purpose of the Tongass Transition Collaborative is to give communities, stakeholders, other landowners, and partners a way to work constructively with the Forest Service.
Through this role, the Tongass Transition Collaborative group represents an independent investment in supporting the Tongass National Forest as it works to implement the set of complex and long-term recommendations put forth by the Tongass Advisory Committee. The Tongass Transition Collaborative's co-chair, Andrew Thoms, stressed the group’s role of “helping develop ideas and conversation among staff to develop an approach focused on what we can do, as opposed to what we cannot do.”
Last week, the Tongass Transition Collaborative met to review progress to date and identify tangible next steps to ensure opportunities continue for land managers and community members alike. Reflecting on the 60+ implementation recommendations put forward by the Tongass Advisory Committee’, today’s Tongass Transition Collaborative members say they are impressed by and supportive of the great strides the agency has made in changing its culture and navigating legal and regulatory constraints to create beneficial outcomes for the towns and villages in the region.
“This is a systematic process of culturally shifting as an agency, and I’m already seeing this shift,” Forest Supervisor, Earl Stewart, reflected, “The best thing that the TTC [Tongass Transition Collaborative] can offer is the grace to operate differently.”
Throughout all of its deliberations, the Tongass Advisory Committee strongly emphasized the importance of communities and the socioeconomic implications of a transition to primarily young growth forest management. In line with this focus, the group recommended the implementation of workforce development and training to create a local, multi-skilled workforce to perform all facets of forest management, including implementation of the recommendation to improve the accuracy of stand-level inventory and growth data. Quoting a news release, the progress made toward these recommendations, through the Workforce Academy and young growth inventory program, are exemplifying the strides taken toward achieving the Tongass Advisory Committee’s implementation recommendations.
Equally important to the Tongass Advisory Committee was the need for improved monitoring efforts that track the flow of benefits to Southeast Alaska communities. Members stressed the value of place-based monitoring and social learning at the project-level throughout implementation of the new Plan, once finalized, to affect change through adaptation and clearly demonstrate local benefits of projects. Work associated with this socioeconomic monitoring has begun, with the initiation of a social benefits baseline study that will assess the current and recent past socioeconomic conditions in the region, and identify the effects of forest management activities to communities, including employment, personal income, and overall economic activity.
In the coming months, the Tongass Transition Collaborative say they will continue to track progress toward achieving the Tongass Advisory Committee's recommendations, and identifying opportunities to engage industry, forest managers, conservation groups, and community members to implement emerging activities.
In the words of Forest Supervisor Stewart, “We are all in this together – through collective vision, effort, and action.”
Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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