by Mike Sallee
November 19, 2004
As for the timber industry being "denied the benefit of having a viable timber base": The private Native Corporations have enjoyed free reign subject to few restraints other than market pressure to do what they wanted with some very large blocks of virgin forest here in SE Alaska. Native Corp. managers opted for liquidation of Native timber assets. And the pulp mills, KPC and ALP, had sweet long term contracts that among other things permitted them to round log export the red and yellow cedar that were taken incidentally with their targeted species hemlock. And the pulp companies used a very similar and equally specious argument that mill capacity in SE Alaska could not compete with the Japanese and other out-of-state recipients of Alaskan wood.
The pervasiveness and institutionalization of this attitude meant small logging operators like my brother, who dedicated most of his working life to logging, was shuffled off by the USFS to the lower valued timber stands, so those two pulp mills could collude with each other for the best timber. (I'll also attach my brother's rather lengthy comments from the early '90s since I can no longer find them in the Sitnews archives). With the large quantity of valuable yellow cedar I see coming off Gravina I'm left wondering if this small log red cedar gambit is just a front to justify extraction of the real money wood yellow cedar. Or is the yellow cedar being turned into fence boards too? I doubt it.
As for comparing wood processing with large-scale mineral extraction I would argue: 1) That economies solely dependent upon resource extraction tend to be impoverished; and 2) There are a lot more small wood processing facilities in Alaska than there are ore smelting or oil refineries. Several years ago Mobile Manufacturing Co. told me they knew of over a hundred of their Mobile Dimension sawmills in Alaska. I'm sure WoodMizer, MityMite, Lucas and other small mill manufacturers could boast of substantial numbers of their mills in Alaska as well.
From a 100-level economics class I took a long time ago I do recall that there are moral and ethical dilemmas associated with some economic models. Yes, the Alaska Mental Health Trust is to be commended for anticipating public discontent with trashed viewsheds by stipulating restrictions on the Gravina timber extractions in view of Tongass Narrows. The dilemma is that forest structure has been sacrificed in spite of AMHT's attention to appearance.
If you try to hike through most of those selectively cut areas you will find, like I did, that they've been trashed, effectively turned into impassable windfalls by the tops, limbs, and rejected logs left behind. And the expense of helicopter yarding, I've heard somewhere between $100 and $200 per minute, means a lot of valuable merchantable logs are left lying on the ground to rot, a process that could take a long time for yellow cedar.
I'm all for jobs, fair competition and Mental Health Trust profiting from its timber assets but not at the cost of trashing places of value and not by trading away local processing jobs in order to do it.
Attachments - Letter & Photos:
David Sallee's Letter to Senator Ted Stevens - October 20,
In my approximately forty five years of hiking and hunting on mostly trail-less Gravina Island I've found four or five features that make getting around on foot in the woods there acceptably efficient. Those features are muskegs, ridge tops, creeks (if not too swollen by recent rains or choked with blowdowns), open stands of timber, and game trails. In the last several weeks a substantial number of those open stands of timber located on Gravina's Mental Health lands has been trashed with the jumble of tops, limbs and rejected trunks left from recent and ongoing helicopter logging. Traversing these areas now is like trying to negotiate blowdowns.
Downed cedars waiting to be yarded, and a St. Bernard looking for a way througha place I've spent many hours hunting and hiking has been changed for generations to come. Where's our comprehensive plan?
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