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.