Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) led 74 Congress members today in urging U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to support a real transition away from industrial-scale, old-growth logging towards more sustainable industries in the management of Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.
“With limited resources and staff, we believe the Forest Service should focus actions that support the current and future economy of Southeast Alaska,” the representatives wrote. “We support good paying jobs in the forest and support sustaining the local milling infrastructure by focusing on second and young growth forest stands, thinning, and watershed health that has been deteriorated by past logging practices. There is more than $100 million of work to be done to restore watersheds alone – something that will take another 50 years to address at current funding levels.
The Congress members also urged the Forest Service to invest limited agency resources in Tongass National Forest projects that support the 17,000 jobs in fishing, tourism, and recreation. These industries form the cornerstone of Southeast Alaska’s regional economy.
“These jobs and restoration needs should be priorities,” the letter said.
The signers asked Vilsack to reevaluate the planned five-year timber sale program in the Tongass and to heed the department’s public commitments to end the old-growth logging business.
Read the press release and the full letter here.
Southeast Alaska’s economy is booming, according to a report published this week by the Southeast Conference, a business trade association.
Contrary to false statements frequently made by the Southeast Alaska timber industry and its political supporters that Southeast Alaska’s economy and population are weak and shrinking, the Southeast Conference report shows the exact opposite to be the case.
The report indicates that Southeast Alaska has more residents – and more jobs – than ever before and that the region has recovered from the 1990’s logging industry crash.
“Nearly every single economic indicator in the region is up and continuing to rise. It has taken nearly two decades, but the Southeast Alaska economy is now in a cycle of growth and is stronger than ever,” Meilani Schijvens told CoastAlaska’s Ed Schoenfeld. Schijvens, a research analyst for Sheinberg Associates, assembled the report.
Gov. Sean Parnell, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska Forest Association, and other pro-timber stalwarts should read the report since they frequently complain about how the region supposedly suffers from a lack of jobs and a shrinking population. They use these false arguments to make the case that old-growth logging in the Tongass needs to be revved up. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The majority of Southeast Alaskans know that what these advocates of Tongass old-growth logging say is both wrong and exactly the opposite of what the region’s fisheries and tourism industry need – wild, scenic landscapes balanced with careful development.
Read the CoastAlaska and Juneau Empire stories on the Southeast Conference report, or check out the full text of the Southeast Conference report.
Trout Unlimited today welcomed a decision by the U.S. Forest Service to protect sensitive fish habitat in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest while allowing for the expansion of a silver mine that is an important regional employer.
Tongass National Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole issued a decision on Friday that allows Hecla Mining Co., operator of Greens Creek Mine, to expand its waste rock facility by about 18 acres to the south of the mine. The company can also develop another eight acres outside the monument’s boundaries. That land will be used for a rock quarry, a storage site for reclaimed materials and an expanded pond to manage waste water.
The mine is located within Admiralty Island National Monument, one of Southeast Alaska’s wildest and most scenic areas with one of the world’s highest concentrations of brown bears.
Hecla sought to expand the mine’s waste rock area by another 116 acres within the national monument. But that would have resulted in the permanent loss of 1,646 feet of salmon habitat, according to the Forest Service.
Cole would not agree to that. In his decision, Cole specified that no mine waste can be discharged into Tributary or Fowler Creeks, which provide critical habitat for Dolly Varden char and coho salmon. Therefore, although Greens Creek will be allowed a limited expansion, no existing fish habitat will be lost, a move strongly supported by Trout Unlimited.
“We recognize that balancing the need for employment and resource extraction with the protection of important fish habitat is often difficult and complex, as it was in this case. Trout Unlimited appreciates Supervisor Cole’s concern for Admiralty’s critical fish habitat as well as his thoughtful and measured approach to the mine’s expansion,” said Mark Kaelke, Trout Unlimited’s Southeast Alaska project director.
The decision will allow Greens Creek to continue generating waste rock for another 10 years, according to the Forest Service. Had the Forest Service chosen not to allow for expansion, the mine was facing closure in 2019, the federal agency said.
Greens Creek provides some 330 full-time jobs. Last year, it produced over six million ounces of silver. Miners discovered the ore deposit at Greens Creek prior to the creation of the Admiralty Island National Monument. The mine is allowed to operate in the national monument under the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, a federal law.
We Alaskans occasionally need to be reminded of how fortunate we are to live where salmon still have a place to come home to.
In Washington, where I was born and raised, salmon abundance has declined dramatically over the past several decades. When people finally realized what had happened, lots of them blamed “overfishing.” They were probably partly right, but they should’ve been looking in the mirror. In the name of “progress,” they had ruined much of the state’s salmon habitat.
by Chad Shmukler, Hatch Magazine
We don’t often feature grip and grin shots here, mostly because they’re not all that interesting. The image seen below, in my opinion, bucks that trend. Taken earlier this summer on a glacier-fed creek just north of Juneau, Alaska in theTongass National Forest, it is a testament to the staggering biomass of the Tongass.