Alaska Timber Task Force Releases Report
October 20, 2012
Created by Administrative Order 258, the nine-member Alaska Timber Jobs Task Force reviewed issues affecting Alaska’s timber industry. Largely due to declining timber volume offered for sale by the U.S. Forest Service, the Southeast Alaska timber industry has nearly collapsed.
“Inadequate federal timber sales and reckless lawsuits by environmental groups bent on stopping all logging, and wiping out Alaska jobs along the way, are unacceptable,” Governor Parnell said. “This report provides clear and reasonable steps that can assist communities, schools, small businesses, and families in Southeast Alaska.”
Key recommendations include placing up to 2 million acres of federal land in a trust managed by the state, and seeking federal legislation granting states the option of running timber sale programs on federal lands. A state-run program would operate under state forestry standards and state laws.
The report looked at the state of the timber industry throughout Alaska. The industry is small but growing in the Interior and Southcentral Alaska, largely due to a dependable supply from state-managed timberland, according to the report. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources and businesses are working together as woody biomass becomes a cost-effective heating and energy option in rural Alaska.
In Southeast Alaska, however, the downward spiral of lost jobs and closed schools has continued. Despite federal law requiring enough timber sales to meet demand, the Forest Service choked off the timber supply; two of the last three mid-sized mills have closed.
In the past decade, Southeast Alaska timber jobs declined from 1,500 to roughly 200, the region’s population dropped 12 percent, and six schools closed.
To improve economic conditions in Southeast Alaska’s forest-dependent communities one of the recommendation was that the state should take over Tongass timber. The Task Force work and recommendations spanned eight substantive areas of interest in Southeast Alaska including: 1) management of stateowned forests; 2) expansion of legislatively-designated state forests; 3) establishment of legislatively-designated state forests; 4) State of Alaska timber harvesting statutes and regulations; 5) Tongass National Forest ownership and management; 6) timber demand and supply; 7) wood products development; and 8) additional research needs.
The task force provided 34 recommendations to the governor addressing short-, mid- and long-term needs to stabilize and grow the timber industry.
These recommendations include:
In the opinion of the Executive Director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council Lindsey Ketchel, the Governor’s Timber Task Force, released this week, is a formula for disaster. The grandiose and unrealistic plan would remove over 2 million acres from the Tongass National Forest and remove federal protections for salmon streams and other vital habitat. The recommendations are based in confrontational politics and a misguided nostalgia for times past. The small group that made these tired and familiar recommendations was not representative in any way of the diverse stakeholders of the Tongass. The extreme overreach of this report will exacerbate the conflict over land management in Southeast Alaska, leading to a dangerous stalemate that will hurt the people who are actively working on the public land of the Tongass today and diminish their chances for a prosperous future. (Read More)
The task force members included representatives from state agencies, the Governor’s Office, the U.S. Forest Service, the timber industry, and Southeast Alaska communities. The U.S. Forest Service representative was a non-voting member of the task force. The Alaska Timber Jobs Task Force Members:
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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