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Prince of Wales Timber Sale Decision Signed


June 26, 2009

Ketchikan, Alaska - The Supervisor for the Tongass National Forest has signed and released a Record of Decision (ROD) and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for timber sales on the Thorne Bay Ranger District, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska. The announcement was made Thursday.

The ROD for the Logjam FEIS, signed by Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole, explains and details the Selected Alternative (Alternative 5) from the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. These sales will support the Forest's 2008 Forest Plan Amendment and an Adaptive Management Strategy designed to meet the capacity of local mills to process timber in Southeast Alaska. The sales are entirely located in the roaded land base of the forest.

The Selected Alternative will harvest timber over several years from about 3,400 acres of commercial forest land to produce 73 million board feet (MMBF) of sawlog and utility timber volume. The entire EIS project area covers a little more than 56,000 acres. The planned harvest will use a variety of methods designed to protect natural resources while economically harvesting the renewable timber resource. Logging systems will be mostly ground-based, with some helicopter logging involved. No Inventoried Roadless Areas will be entered with the implementation of the projects.

The Decision also authorizes the construction of five miles of National Forest System (NFS) roads, and an additional 22 miles of temporary roads. There are about 125 miles of NFS roads and another 46 miles of decommissioned temporary roads within the project area.

Quoting a Forest Service news release, the Logjam Timber Sales are a vital element of the local island economy and the Tongass' efforts to transition into a young-growth management strategy. Currently the Forest is working to develop enough timber under contract, with additional timber in planned sales, to supply local mill operators and the local wood products industry for the next 15 to 20 years. The Tongass will then transition its timber program to one that relies more on young growth timber from past harvest areas.

The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council said in a news release, despite the fact that this area is more valuable for wildlife, hunting, fishing and recreational needs, SEACC along with other conservation groups offered a "Conservation Alternative " to help the Forest Service and area timber operators meet their timber needs.

"Alternatives ranged from cutting no action to cutting 75 million board feet. Conservation groups came up with an alternative just under 40 million board feet that would create jobs and preserve wildlife corridors. So we're disappointed and a bit dismayed that the Forest Service would propose an unnecessarily high 72 million board feet alternative that cuts into one of the primary wildlife corridors on Prince of Wales," said Lindsey Ketchel, executive director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. "It shows they want to continue business as usual on the Tongass."

Cole explained that his decision was made based upon several factors that include:

  • incorporating direction in the 2008 decision of the Forest Plan Amendment and responding to the Tongass Adaptive Management Strategy;
  • managing already developed areas more intensely to minimize the need for new development in higher value Inventoried Roadless Areas;
  • the needs of the communities surrounding the timber sale project area;
  • maximizing the amount of more economical ground-based logging while minimizing the effects on resources; and
  • including enough volume that would be harvested with a helicopter, focusing on timber value through single-tree selection to offset the high costs of helicopter logging.

"In making my decision, I considered the objectives to meet the Purpose and Need for this project as well as the issues and concerns raised during scoping, and comments on the Draft EIS," Cole wrote in the ROD. "I considered Forest Plan direction relevant to this project and the competing interests and values of the public. I considered all viewpoints and incorporated them where feasible and consistent with the Purpose and Need of the project."

Timber Sale contracts can be awarded 15 days after appeals are resolved as required under the Appeals Reform Act (ARA) and the regulations implementing that Act at 36 CFR 215. In accordance with the ARA, organizations and members of the public with standing (those who submitted comments or otherwise expressed an interest in the project during the 45-day comment period on the Draft EIS) have 45 days to appeal this Decision to the Regional Forester.



Sources of News:

USFS - Tongass National Forest

Southeast Alaska Conservation Council



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