Tongass Report - Updates from America's Rainforest

We know that it can be hard to filter the mass of information coming out of D.C. and Juneau and track which will have an impact on the Tongass. Here at SEACC, our goal is to keep you informed about what is going on and provide you opportunities to protect what you love, the Tongass National Forest and the Inside Passage.  

Many of the current issues are ones that we have seen before such as the Alaska Mental Health Trust Lands or the Big Thorne timber sale. As your local watchdog nonprofit, SEACC will continue to keep you updated on these and other issues important for Southeast.

Want to do more? Contact SEACC to find out how you can host an event, volunteer, or attend events in your community.

Big Thorne Timber Sale

After a nearly 3-year legal battle, a panel of three judges from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a split decision on the Big Thorne timber sale in May of 2017, with one justice dissenting. The sale approved clearcutting nearly 100 million board feet of old-growth forest from Tongass National Forest lands between Thorne Bay and Coffman Cove on Prince of Wales Island. The decision ruled against conservation groups fighting to safeguard key winter deer habitat. 

Although disappointed with this decision, SEACC and other conservation groups will continue to watchdog the Forest Service project planning efforts closely and push them to end old-growth logging on the Tongass. There isn't room for large-scale, old-growth timber sales like Big Thorne in today’s economy. In fact, there is broad agreement across the region that it is past time to end this kind of logging on the Tongass. Our economic prosperity depends on vibrant, healthy, old-growth forests to support the economic drivers of our region—world-class fishing, recreation, and tourism. Unfortunately, the USFS seems stuck pursuing an unrealistic and unsustainable approach to forest management that sacrifices our long-term economic, social, and ecological prosperity.   

Alaska Mental Health Trust Lands

Also in May, Congress fast-tracked the Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Exchange when it passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 (H.R.244).The bill authorizes an exchange of lands of equal value between the Alaska Mental Health Trust and the Tongass National Forest. The pool of lands involved includes about 18,200 acres of Alaska Mental Health Trust lands and about 20,500 acres of productive Tongass National Forest lands on Prince of Wales and Revilla Islands.

The lands to go to the Forest Service are of high value for community use like Deer Mountain above downtown Ketchikan, or areas of substantial public safety concern like the steep slopes above the Mitkof Highway in Petersburg where clearcut logging would increase the risk of landslides and threaten downhill communities. The Forest Service must manage the acquired lands to preserve “the undeveloped natural character” of the land, keeping these important cultural and recreational lands in one piece. In exchange, the Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Exchange will receive up to 20,000 of productive timber lands on Prince of Wales and Revilla Islands.  

Once the Trust and Forest Service agree on which appraisers they will use, Phase I of the exchange begins. This phase includes a simultaneous exchange of roughly 2,400 acres of Tongass National Forest lands on central Prince of Wales Island (the Naukati Phase I parcel) for nearly 2,600-acres of Trust lands on Signal and Minerva Mountains near Ketchikan. SEACC will work with partner organizations to explore future parcel-specific conservation alternatives to avoid clearcut logging of parcels under the pretext of generating revenue for mental health services they provide to their beneficiaries.

State National Forest Management Act of 2017 (H.R. 232)

Introduced by Alaska Congressman Don Young, this bill seeks to transfer up to 2-million acres of National Forest to state control. In many states, this could mean the loss of all National Forest lands. In Alaska, it would mean the loss of 2-million acres of Tongass National Forest lands to the chainsaw because the bill mandates a state to manage the acquired lands “primarily for timber production.” SEACC strongly opposes the bill because this type of timber-first management would devastate many of our favorite recreation sites and harm our strong tourism and fishing based economy.

Help us ensure that this destructive bill does not pass. Communities in Southeast Alaska like PetersburgGustavus, and Tenakee have already passed resolutions opposing the bill. SEACC is looking to help additional Southeast Alaska communities propose similar resolutions. If you or someone you know is interested in preparing a resolution for your community, please contact us at info@seacc.org for more information.

For the past 47 years, SEACC has defended the Tongass and Southeast Alaska. We have seen tough times before and have persevered. Together, we can protect Southeast Alaska, maintain the wild place that we all love. For more information on policies that will impact Southeast Alaska, check out our Attacks on the Tongass page.

 


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