Tongass Advisory Committee Discusses Transition Strategy with USDA Leadership
November 26, 2014
Working groups of the Committee presented work products and initial findings developed since the last TAC meeting. The Committee developed a purpose and need statement for consideration by the Plan Amendment interdisciplinary team, and drafted initial ideas regarding exceptions for the Culmination of Mean Annual Increment (CMAI) in order to allow for more acres of young growth timber harvest, particularly during the transition period. They also heard updates on projects and initiatives implemented to date, as well as the process for developing alternatives for the Amendment.
The meeting was attended by USDA Under Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment, Robert Bonnie, USFS Alaska Regional Forester, Beth Pendleton, and Tongass National Forest Supervisor, Forrest Cole. Committee members communicated the need for the Forest Service to not only amend the Forest Plan, but to utilize principles such as innovation, creativity, transparency, and risk for future Forest management.
Under Secretary Bonnie stressed the important opportunity that the Committee has “to find a solution that works for everybody [so] we can move to a place with less controversy, and more buy-in and stakeholder support. You all play a critically important role in potentially making that happen.”
Bonnie said, “Our opportunity is to do something here which goes beyond politics and actually creates a course that we can all walk together on…[We are] very much willing to take risks and take what you all have given us and put it to use.”
Regional Forester Pendleton echoed that sentiment, “I am open and optimistic that we can find some solutions together.” The Committee said they appreciated the leadership’s candor, their expressed support for the Committee’s recommendations should they come to agreement, and, in particular, thanked the Under Secretary for traveling to Sitka in the face of inclement weather and travel delays.
In spite of the longstanding challenges associated with timber harvest in Southeast Alaska, the Committee said they had a pragmatic, civil, and productive discussion regarding future timber management. The members began identifying areas of common understanding including the need for a predictable supply of young growth timber; the importance of preserving infrastructure and expertise appropriate to the pace and scale of implementation of the Forest Plan Amendment; and the potential limited role for old growth timber harvest through the transition and for future niche markets. According to the news release, members are dedicated and optimistic, but aware of the magnitude of the task at hand in order to come to agreement on recommendations. To help meet this challenge, they developed assumptions for young growth volume projections to inform discussions at the next meeting.
The Committee thanked the Sitka Tribe for hosting the group in its beautiful facility, and also expressed sincere appreciation for the robust public comment both in person and in writing. Quoting the news release, "They clearly heard the interest to consider resources and values beyond timber. The Committee hopes to see continued engagement from the public, encouraging interested members of the public to share their ideas and/or concerns through the public comment process."
The next meeting is scheduled for January 20-23, 2015 in Juneau, Alaska.
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
Source of News: