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Tongass Advisory Committee Supports Proposed Tongass Land and Resource Management Plan


December 05, 2015
Saturday AM

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - During its final meeting, held December 1-3 in Ketchikan, the Tongass Advisory Committee (TAC) finalized its recommendations to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on developing an ecologically, socially, and economically sustainable forest management strategy for the Tongass National Forest. The Committee reached consensus on draft recommendations in May 2015; during this week’s meeting, the group finalized its recommendations with very minor substantive changes. They unanimously support the preferred alternative in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and recommend it be the foundation of the final amended Tongass Land and Resource Management Plan.

The Committee recognized the amount of work that the Tongass Interdisciplinary Team put into incorporating its recommendations into the Proposed Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement, related they believe that, for the most part, its recommendations were accurately reflected in the preferred alternative. Designated Federal Official, Jason Anderson, expressed mutual gratitude to the Tongass Advisory Committee’s efforts, “I truly thank you. Very few of you received a paycheck to be here, and you gave your time and energy, over and over again, selflessly.”

Committee co-chair, Les Cronk, agreed, “The energy and focus of this group and the shared intent of achieving success has been inspirational. We all had a commitment to success and we achieved it!”

During the meeting, members of the Tongass Interdisciplinary Team provided an overview of how the Tongass Advisory Committee's recommendations were incorporated into the Proposed Land and Resource Management Plan, and offered the opportunity for an in-depth question and answer session to further the Committee's understanding of how its recommendations are reflected in the Proposed Plan.

Following discussion of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the Tongass Advisory Committee provided comments for the Forest Service to consider in finalizing the Proposed Plan.

In addition to recommendations regarding the Proposed Plan, the Tongass Advisory Committee also provided advice regarding implementation and monitoring of the Tongass transition. Committee members stressed the value of place-based monitoring and social learning at the project-level throughout implementation of the new Plan, once finalized, to affect change through adaptation and clearly demonstrate local benefits of projects. The Tongass Advisory Committee discussed how the Forest should use these additional recommendations, which are not reflected in the Plan Amendment. The Tongass Advisory Committee drafted a letter to Secretary Vilsack emphasizing the importance of accepting their recommendations as a package, rather than a menu of options. They also intend to follow-up with the Regional Forest Service leadership in the near-term.

The Committee expressed appreciation for the input received through public comments, given at this meeting and throughout the entire process. Many comments at this meeting were in support of implementing the Tongass Advisory Committee's recommendations, and offered suggestions for a successful transition.

Co-chair Cronk emphasized the ongoing value of the Tongass Advisory Committee’s work, beyond their recommendations alone: “The TAC is a great example of what can be done – success is possible, even with a diverse group.” The members are committed to continuing to work together through a collaborative process with the Forest Service and other interested stakeholders to ensure an effective transition.

Co-chair Lynn Jungwirth expressed similar support and optimism for future collaboration on the Tongass: “Your willingness to accept each other’s value sets is breathtaking, and I am continually impressed by the group’s ability to come to solutions that integrate those value sets. You are most advanced collaborative group I have ever worked with. I have seen such youthful energy on the Tongass – I hope to see that energy in future collaborative efforts as the Tongass implements its transition strategy.”

The Tongass Advisory Committee (TAC) was federally chartered in the winter of 2014 to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on developing an ecologically, socially, and economically sustainable forest management strategy for the Tongass National Forest. They were specifically tasked with developing recommendations about how to transition within 10 to 15 years from old growth to predominantly young growth timber management in a way that is economically viable for the existing industry, while recognizing and balancing the other unique and equally important resource values of the Tongass.

The TAC was comprised of fifteen members from the timber industry, conservation community, Native interests, government, and “other” interests.



A final copy of the Committee’s recommendations and comments to the Forest Service will be available soon on the Tongass Advisory Committee's website.


Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


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