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!

Now for the updates -

Last Wednesday, the USFS published a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for several possible projects on Prince of Wales Island.  Public comments on the scope of this project must be submitted to the Thorne Bay Ranger District by December 30th. You may submit comments electronically here.

The proposed action identified for this project includes supplying 10 to 15 years of old growth for logging; many transportation-related activities (road construction, reconstruction & maintenance); commercial and pre-commercial “treatments” of young growth forests; fish and wildlife habitat improvements; and development and improvement of recreation infrastructure (cabins, shelters, & trails).  The Forest Service will consider a range of alternatives including the no action and proposed action alternatives.  You can find more information for the Prince of Wales Landscape Level Analysis (POW LLAP) on the Tongass National Forest website

Today, Tongass Forest Supervisor Stewart signed the Record of Decision approving the Tongass Plan Amendment. The Record of Decision (ROD) and Plan Amendment become effective 30 days after publication of notice of the Plan Amendment’s approval in the Ketchikan Daily News. To view the final ROD, Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), Forest Plan Amendment, and other related documents please visit the Tongass National Forest Plan Amendment website.

Although SEACC officially objected to the Tongass Land Management Plan Amendment because the amendment doesn’t go far enough or move fast enough to end old growth clearcut logging, given the change in national political leadership we believe it critical for the new plan to become effective before the Trump administration takes over on January 20, 2017.

You may have heard that the Wrangell Assembly has signed onto a letter asking that the Land Management Plan Amendment be delayed. Although the Amendment is imperfect, we at SEACC believe that going back to the drawing board at this point and giving up the gains made around protecting some of the most important wildlife and salmon habitat from logging just doesn’t make sense. We expect the timber industry to oppose the Amendment because they want more of the Tongass opened up for logging as they have already logged the biggest and most economical timber.  When they do, we’ll be right on their heels, intervening in any litigation they file. We’ll also continue fighting ill-planned, old-growth timber sales under the new plan amendment, because it’s simply ridiculous to keep logging our biggest trees and shipping them straight overseas while paying lip service to local business, and local jobs. We know we’ll be busy defending the Tongass throughout the next four years – putting a new plan in place now keeps Tongass conservation moving forward and gives us all a bit more to defend from the threats to come.

Elsewhere:

Next week, the Forest Service kicks off its POW Landscape Level Analysis with public input meetings in Thorne Bay, Naukati, and Craig.  The Thorne Bay meeting will be held on December 12th at the Forest Service conference room from 4:30 to 6pm. The Naukati meeting is on December 13th at the school library. The Craig meeting is from 4pm to 5:30 on December 15th at the Craig Tribal Association building from 4:30 to 6pm. This meeting follows an Information Fair at the Tribal building put on by the Prince of Wales Landscape Assessment Team that starts at 10:00 a.m. 

The Forest Service will accept specific written comments on the scope of this project at these meetings. The meetings provide an excellent opportunity to ask the Forest Service about the project’s scope and effects. For example:

  • Why does the project map for this landscape level analysis not show all the watersheds made off-limits to logging under the soon-to-be-effective Tongass Plan Amendment? 
  • What effect will other proposals, like granting the State of Alaska extensive amounts of National Forest lands for a state forest, or the Alaska Mental Health Trust land exchange, or the proposed Sealaska land exchange, or more timber sales on existing POW state forest parcels have on existing subsistence, recreational and commercial uses of forest resources on Prince of Wales Island?
  • How can the Forest Service possibly rely on a single project decision to approve a bunch of management activities that will take place over the next 10 to 15 years?

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