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.

We have begun our review of the FEIS and draft ROD and will prepare and submit objections related to SEACC’s unresolved concerns by August 30th. If you previously submitted comments during the opportunities for public comment provided by the agency and can attribute your objections to your previously submitted comments, you may submit your own objections. This objection process is brand new, so if you have any questions or comments, contact Buck, our grassroots attorney on staff.

Specifically, the agency selected Alternative 5 for the 2016 Tongass Plan Amendment. According to the proposed ROD (at pg. 6):

“...the Agency expects to sell an average of about 12 million board feet (MMBF) of young growth and 34 MMBF of old-growth per year during the first 10 years. From Year 11 through Year 15, it expects to sell an average of 28 MMBF of young growth and about 18 MMBF of old growth per year. Alternative 5 is expected to reach a full transition of 41 MMBF of young growth about Year 16.”

This time frame puzzles us. It has been decades since logging served as our region’s economic foundation. Today, the industries driving Southeast Alaska’s economy rely upon standing old-growth forests: fishing, tourism, and outdoor recreation. A 2015 report by the McDowell Group found that the tourism industry in Southeast Alaska employs more than 10,000 people, with visitors spending nearly $600 million a year with an economic impact of more than $1 billion. This is Alaska’s future, not continued old-growth industrial logging.

Not only is this approach economically irresponsible, it threatens local, small scale old-growth logging and processing companies that supply artists and craftspeople with the essential component (old growth) for their high value added products. These sustainable practices are more healthy and sustainable than the industrial old-growth clearcutting the Forest Service wants to continue.

Additionally, the draft decision punches big holes in the Tongass' role as America's carbon life raft. The draft decision compromises the role of the Tongass in slowing down climate change and is inconsistent with our obligations under the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through better management of existing forests (e.g., reducing deforestation and increasing sequestration.) According to the Forest Service, current estimates suggest the Tongass accounts for approximately 10-12 percent of the carbon stored in national forests; the National Forest System constitutes almost 25 percent of the total carbon stored in all U.S. forests(excluding interior Alaska).

In light of the agency's decision, SEACC will be submitting substantive objections to the Responsible Official, Alaska Regional Forest Beth Pendleton, by August 30th.

To stay informed and involved in SEACC's steadfast advocacy for the Tongass, America's biggest, wettest, and wildest National Forest, visit our website at http://www.seacc.org.
To make a contribution to our efforts or become a sustaining SEACC member, visit https://seacc.com/donate.

Standing strong for the Tongass,

Buck Lindekugel, Grassroots Attorney

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