June 04, 2007
Under the terms of the agreement, the Forest Service will withdraw Records of Decision for nine Environmental Impact Statements that allow timber sales in inventoried roadless areas. In return, plaintiffs will withdraw litigation on several purchased sales.
The terms of the agreement provide enough timber to keep hundreds of people employed in the industry throughout Southeast Alaska until the Forest Plan Amendment is completed and implementation begun. "We're happy to be able to keep working," Viking Lumber owner Kirk Dahlstrom said. "Our existing wood products industry is dependent on timber from the National Forest, so it's great to have some wood available for the next year or more." Viking Lumber is located near the town of Craig on Prince of Wales Island approximately 75 miles west of Ketchikan.
"This settlement is very practical. For the duration of the agreement, it safeguards important community use areas and wildlife habitat-the places most important for hunting, fishing, wildlife, customary and traditional gathering, recreation, and tourism on the Tongass-while ensuring local mills have the timber they need until the Forest Service completes the forest planning process," said Russell Heath, Executive Director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. Heath acted as spokesperson for the plaintiffs, which include the Organized Village of Kake, Sitka Conservation Society, The Tongass Conservation Society, the National Audubon Society on behalf of Audubon Alaska, the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society, and the Center for Biological Diversity.
Several parties to the agreement are members of a group called the Tongass Futures Roundtable (www.tongassfutures.net), a forum designed to help diverse interests find common ground on Southeast Alaska forest issues. Although not all parties to the settlement are members of the Roundtable, ongoing Roundtable meetings have allowed key parties to dialogue on controversial topics and begin to work on solutions.
"The settlement is a temporary solution to keep all parties working together in good faith as we develop the new Forest Plan Record of Decision," said Forrest Cole, Forest Supervisor for the Tongass National Forest.
Encouraged by the outcome of the settlement, the parties are also looking forward to future successes. "As we strive for a long term solution," said State Forester Chris Maisch, "we will keep the local communities and people of Southeast Alaska foremost in our deliberations and ensure that an inclusive and transparent process ensues."
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