Tongass Forest Update: New Land Management Plan Amendment

This month has been a busy time for the Tongass – below please find updates on the Tongass Land Management Plan Amendment, new information about the Forest Service’s public comment period for planned projects on Prince of Wales (POW), and information on public input meetings taking place next week in Thorne Bay, Naukati, and Craig regarding the Prince of Wales Landscape Level Analysis Project (POWLLAP). We’d particularly like to make sure our members see and have the opportunity to attend and weigh in at the POW Landscape Level Analysis meeting next week: let us know if you decide to go or need more information!

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Governor Walker: Zombie Slayer

Over the past week there have been an number of excellent letters urging Governor Walker to kill the Juneau Road extension, zombie-md.pngincluding this one from the Juneau Empire Reader's Council.

On Halloween weekend, please urge Governor Walker to finally kill this zombie project!

The half-billion dollar plus road extension continues to come back from the dead to haunt Southeast Alaska. Consider the gruesome details:  

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Hawk Inlet TMDL Public Meeting Tomorrow!

Over the past year, Friends of Admiralty Island has led the effort to take a close look at the sediments, shellfish, fish, and wildlife in Hawk Inlet, where Greens Creek Mine has its waste tailings pile and ore-loading facilities. As you may recall, the results have been disturbing (more on that below.)

Tomorrow there is an important opportunity to speak up for Hawk Inlet, and for clean water and aquatic life! SEACC is encouraging our supporters to please attend or call in to get your testimony on record.

When: Tuesday, October 25th, from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Where: DEC Conference Room (410 Willoughby, Second Floor Conference Room)

What: Public Hearing on DEC's plan for Hawk Inlet

For those who cannot attend in person, please consider joining the teleconference.

  • For audio connection, call 1-800-315-6338, and add the access code of 55257 at the prompt.
  • For visual connection, Skype for Business will be available. Please provide your email contact to gretchen.pikul@alaska.gov at least one day prior to the meeting so that they can connect you.

Some background on Hawk Inlet:

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Your Chance to Help Protect Alaska's Clean Water - Testify on 10/12

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On Wednesday, October 12, 2016, the Alaska House Fisheries Special Committee has scheduled a hearing to take public testimony on the Transboundary Mining Issue. The hearing presents a critical opportunity to urge our elected leaders to Get Extra Tuff on BC Mines and ensure the mining companies and provincial agencies in British Columbia take whatever steps are necessary to protect Alaska's salmon, communities and cultures.  

This is your chance to share your concerns with Alaska's top leaders!

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A Whole Heap of New Murkowski Bills Available for Comment!

Naha_River_(1)_-_Photograph_by_Mark_Edwards.JPGYesterday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on 21 (yes, 21!) different pieces of legislation, including a suite of bills that make compromises on the Tongass in different ways. While the jam-packed hearing allowed little time for meaningful discussion, there is still time for you to weigh in.

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Help halt the Kuiu Island timber sale

Imagine our surprise when we learned in late August that the U.S. Forest Service is offering an unexpected timber sale in the Tongass – a sale that directly undermines new direction in the Forest Service’s own 2016 Tongass Plan Amendment, which is expected to go into effect this winter.

But that’s what is happening – the Forest Service is quietly advertising a sale of more than 30 million board feet of timber on North Kuiu Island, a timber sale heavily subsidized by taxpayers that will harm hunters and subsistence users.

Tell the Forest Service to stop this timber sale before it starts by signing on to our letter to Tongass Forest Supervisor, Earl Stewart.

The North Kuiu timber sale was last studied over eight years ago, but the Forest Service couldn't offer it for sale because the timber was not worth enough to cover the logger’s costs. The agency has finally offered it for sale after taking two extraordinary and costly measures.

First, the agency constructed the roads necessary for the sale at the public’s expense, reducing the logger's costs by shifting them to taxpayers. While we’re still working to figure out exactly how much the Forest Service spent, we do know the public financed at least 4.5 miles of new roads for the sale to the tune of $1.3 million. And that’s on a sale that has a minimum bid set to just $234,000. 

Second, the agency approved the sale for 100 percent export, which means the logs that are cut could be sent straight out of the region (and in some cases, the country) without doing any job-creating local processing. Exporting 100 percent of the logs increases the value of the timber for the logger, but reduces the number of local jobs the sale can create.

Only by shifting costs to the taxpayer and reducing local employment is the Forest Service able to advertise this sale for purchase without losing money on it. Even then, the sale will generate little revenue despite its large size, offering greatly reduced economic value while increasing environmental, social, and economic costs to the people of Southeast.

Kuiu Island has been heavily logged in past decades, leaving behind a highly fragmented ecosystem with greatly reduced habitat values. More than 10,000 acres of productive old growth have been logged from a network of more than 170 miles of roads. Deer populations on the island are already perilously low, affecting hunting and subsistence use by residents of Kake, for whom the island holds great historical and cultural importance. Marten and black bear numbers are also significantly down, impacting outfitters and guides who use the project area for bear hunting, fishing, and sightseeing.

This sale is inconsistent with the new Tongass Plan Amendment set to be finalized this winter. That’s why the Forest Service is rushing this sale under the current plan, without taking a hard look at significant new circumstances or information relevant to adverse impacts of this timber sale on the human environment.

The Forest Service must prepare a supplemental analysis for public review before deciding whether to proceed with this sale. Until then, the agency should rescind the timber sale advertisement and return any bids unopened.

SEACC is working with regional conservation organizations and other partners in contacting the Forest Service about this sale, but we need your help. Join us, and tell Forest Supervisor Stewart that this rushed sale is not in the best interest of the residents of Southeast, our ecosystem, or our economy.

Thanks for taking a stand with us.


Old Growth logging on the Tongass to continue

The U.S. Forest Service on July 1 released its Final Environmental Impact Statement and draft Record of Decision (ROD) for the 2016 Tongass Land Management Plan Amendment. Unfortunately, the draft decision does not stop industrial-scale old growth logging soon enough. The Forest Service intends to carry on business as usual and perpetuate continued controversy about old-growth logging for at least another decade.

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Thank you for speaking up for the Tongass

Thanks to you who took the time to comment on the draft Tongass Land Management Plan amendment. You are one of roughly quarter million people who weighed-in on the future of the Tongass! (It is, after all, the crown jewel of our National Forest system.) The Forest Service is now tasked with analyzing and, we hope, incorporating many of the concerns you raised, from providing even more solid protections for the salmon strongholds to putting an end to old-growth clearcutting sooner rather than later.

We should see a final version of the Tongass Plan later this year - if you commented on the draft you'll have an opportunity to weigh-in on the final. In the meantime, peruse our comment letter or the comprehensive 130 page comment letter we jointly submitted with Earthjustice and other conservation allies. Or, get outside and enjoy our fabulous forest home.


Summary of the Draft Tongass Plan

In November of 2015 the U.S. Forest Service released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and preferred alternative for public review on its proposed Tongass Land Management Plan amendment. Public comments are due by February 22, 2016.

At first glance, the Forest Service’s draft plan makes small steps forward; the preferred alternative, Alternative 5, finally takes old-growth in salmon strongholds like Port Houghton, Poison Cove and Ushk Bay, Castle River, Broad Finger Creek, and East Kuiu (No Name, Reid & Alvin Bays) off the chopping block in the near term.  

However, the proposed plan continues controversial clearcutting of valuable old-growth forests over the next 15 years! In fact the Forest Service plans to log more old growth in the next decade s than they did in the last decade. The Tongass National Forest is the only National Forest in America that still allows clearcut logging of irreplaceable old-growth forests. What’s worse is that purchasers can export up to half of those logs without local processing, effectively sending local manufacturing jobs out of the region.  

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25th Anniversary of the Tongass Timber Reform Act

It has been 25 years since the Tongass Timber Reform Act (TTRA) was signed into law. This legislation became the most significant piece of conservation legislation signed by President George H. W. Bush.

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