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Governor Praises Effort Allowing Harvest of Yakutat Timber
Encourages Forest Service to help increase timber production


July 26, 2005

Alaska Governor Frank H. Murkowski on Monday commended the efforts of the state, the Alaska Forest Association and the U.S. Forest Service that made possible the harvest of a portion of the windblown timber located on 5,800 acres of forest land in the Yakutat Forelands.

The timber in question was blown down in a storm in 2001. In 2003, the Forest Service prepared an environmental assessment to harvest the timber from a roaded portion of the blow down (the "Yakutat I sale"). In 2004 the Forest Service issued another assessment for an additional 659 acres (the "Yakutat II sale"). The Yakutat II permit was appealed by the Yakutat Tlingit tribe because of concerns that the use of trench roads and the log transfer facility would impact salmon habitat within the Situk River. The tribe sought a more extensive environmental impact statement as a condition to permitting. Last May the AFA and the state intervened in the lawsuit.

On July 12 Federal District Court Judge James Singleton entered an order halting all harvest of windblown timber in the Yakutat II sale area, finding that the environmental assessment was inadequate and holding that a full EIS was required. On Monday July 18, Judge Singleton modified his order at the request of the state, the AFA and the Forest Service to allow the contractor to transport previously harvested logs and to restore the sale area.

"This administration has always advocated the responsible and full utilization of the state's natural resources, including timber," said Murkowski. "Thanks to the combined efforts of the timber industry, the state and the Forest Service, three million board feet of wind-thrown timber was saved from being wasted."

"We appreciate Governor Murkowski's efforts to bring about this result" said AFA Executive Director Owen Graham. "Harvesting the windblown timber which is already down is good for the timber operator and for the conservation of the resources at the sale. However, now it is imperative that the Forest Service take whatever emergency administrative action is necessary to get the displaced loggers back to work immediately. These people cannot afford to be out of work for a month or two. Getting these people back to work and protecting timber-dependent communities in Southeast Alaska must now become the first priority!"

"It is critical for the state and the Forest Service to continue to work together to develop a process that thoroughly explores environmental assessments while allowing the industry to harvest available timber in an expedient but responsible manner," said Murkowski. "In that vein, I call upon the Forest Service to proceed with a full environmental impact review to allow the harvest of all the remaining wind thrown timber in the Yakutat Forelands."

The AFA is a membership, service organization representing the interests of loggers, timber mill owners and road builders.


Source of News:

Office of the Governor


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Ketchikan, Alaska