SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Kake: Have your forest and eat it too?
Community Alternative to timber sale balances community and agency needs
By Sarah Campen


June 18, 2009

Whether it's fish, game, serenity, or jobs, properly managed forests in Southeast Alaska can provide us what we need on many levels. In communities like Kake, struggling against high unemployment and high costs of living, meeting local needs with local resources just makes sense. That's exactly what Kake residents and the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council proposed through the Kake Community Alternative to the upcoming Central Kupreanof timer sale.

In January, the Forest Service released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the sale, near Kake. The document includes three action alternatives. The Forest Service's preferred alternative is a large timber sale designed to meet the agency's stated purpose and need. Unfortunately, it does not meet Kake's community needs. The Kake Community Alternative meets both agency and community needs.

Residents liked some parts of the agency's project alternatives, especially the forest stewardship opportunities, but many are concerned about negative environmental and economic impacts of more large-scale logging in their area. They depend on the forest for resources other than timber, and see this project as an opportunity to enhance those other resources and uses.

Kake's concerns are nothing new, and it's not just Kake that needs more from its back yard. Last year, similar conversations in Hoonah led to the Hoonah Community Forest Plan <> which outlines the areas around Hoonah best suited for conservation, restoration and logging. That plan led to SEACC and the Forest Service's collaborative success <> restructuring the Iyouktug timber sale to better meet Hoonah's needs.

Hoping to replicate Hoonah's success, we designed the Kake Community Alternative to emphasize parts of the Forest Service document residents liked, modify portions they didn't like, and add some new ideas to make this project a long-term management plan the community can build on.

Tough times facing Kake residents mean many depend almost as much on subsistence resources now as they did generations ago, before years of industrial logging began around the village. There is widespread concern that more large timber sales in the area will further reduce wildlife habitat and deplete fish and wildlife populations.

To address this concern, we expanded on the Forest Service's lead (in Alternative 4 of the DEIS) and limited logging to already roaded areas. Staying out of roadless areas reduces habitat destruction, deer mortality from wolf predation, problems with crossing salmon streams, and costly road maintenance.

The Community Alternative also proposes to scale and schedule the timber sale in a way that allows small locally-owned mills in Kake to compete for the trees. Past experience taught residents that outsider logging operations hire minimal numbers of locals, for minimal amounts of time. By limiting sales from the project to 200,000 board feet per year, the Community Alternative allows Kake's local sawmills to compete for local timber. This keeps logging and processing jobs in town, ensures a long-term supply of timber that meets or exceeds projected demand from Kake's mills, and creates opportunity to grow a prosperous sustainable forest products industry in Kake.

The Kake Community Alternative also looks beyond timber to ways the Central Kupreanof project can support subsistence and other economic forest product uses. It proposes cultivating forest products like wild berries in gap cuts and mixing thinning by-product and fish waste into fertilizer. The Alternative outlines forest restoration contracting opportunities including road repair, maintenance and decommissioning, pre-commercial forest thinning, and blocked fish culvert replacement-all of which could be significant local-hire opportunities.

Throughout the Tongass, the forests, fish, wildlife and wild places give us what we need to maintain and expand the independent quality of life we all enjoy as Southeast Alaskans. In Kake, the Forest Service has an opportunity to help the community help itself by putting local people to work using a variety of local forest resources. We appreciate Kake and the Forest Service's help with this project. We hope the Forest Service will incorporate the Kake Community Alternative into its decision and use it as a template for managing public lands around Kake. That way, Kake may, forgive me, have its forest and eat it too.

Sarah Campen
Juneau, AK

About: Sarah Campen was raised in Sitka and on Killisnoo Island near Angoon. She currently lives in Juneau and works as a community organizer for the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.

Received June 18, 2008 - Published June 18, 2009


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