Alaska Senator questions viability of USDA's goal to transition Tongass timber harvests to young-growth within 15 years, calls for assurances that timber industry will have sufficient supply, says state's Southeast can not afford more mill closures
July 8, 2013
– U.S. Senator Mark Begich today commented on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack’s memorandum specifying direction for the transition in the Tongass National Forest to timber harvest consisting solely of young growth trees.
“I’m pleased that Secretary Vilsack recognizes the need to stabilize the timber industry by adopting a collaborative approach in which the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) will coordinate with the State of Alaska, regional and village Native corporations, and others on a transition strategy,” said Sen. Begich. “However, just a few days ago I voiced support for the Big Thorne timber sale decision as it seemed to indicate that the USFS was trying to provide a multi-year supply of timber to mills in Southeast Alaska. While the memorandum issued today references the need for ‘bridge timber’ to keep the industry alive, it does not reference any specific sales other than the Big Thorne sale to accomplish that goal.”
“The memorandum also states that in the next 10-15 years, the ‘vast majority’ of timber sold in the Tongass will be young growth. Based upon meetings I have had with Southeast Alaska timber companies, I question whether that goal is realistic. I am therefore asking Secretary Vilsack to take some additional actions which I believe are minimally necessary in order to have a successful transition.”
Additional actions include: