Trout Unlimited Alaska today welcomed an announcement by the U.S. Forest Service that the federal agency is shifting logging in the Tongass National Forest from old-growth stands to forested areas that have already been harvested and cut with roads.
At nearly 17 million acres, the Tongass in Southeast Alaska is both the country’s largest national forest and one of the biggest intact tracks of temperate rain forest in the world. For several decades beginning in the 1950s, loggers supplying two now-defunct pulp mills cut thousands of acres of Tongass hemlock, spruce and cedar trees. Tongass logging sparked one of the nation’s most intractable and controversial environmental battles, pitting the timber industry and its supporters against conservationists, fishermen, tourism operators and others.
Wednesday’s announcement that the Forest Service will chart a new course for the Tongass, moving timber sales from pristine old-growth into areas already impacted by logging, is welcome news for Trout Unlimited Alaska which has long worked for a negotiated end to the timber wars.
“It’s a huge step forward. The decision recognizes that liquidating roadless areas of the Tongass and cutting down old growth is not a recipe for economic success in Southeast Alaska. The agency has finally recognized that logging can and will be a component of the regional economy but for the first time the Forest Service is looking at all the resources that can help create a thriving economic environment and good jobs for people. We’re excited to work with the Forest Service and stakeholders from throughout the region to make this a reality,” said Tim Bristol, director of TU-AK.
In addition to shifting its approach to logging, the Forest Service also announced that it will emphasize job creation in emerging and established industries in Southeast Alaska, including forest restoration, renewable energy, tourism and recreation, subsistence, commercial and sport fishing and mariculture. The Forest Service described this effort as a “region-wide job creation platform.” Read the Associated Press story and the Forest Service press release.