Young's bill would jeopardize not only trees but Alaska businesses
In a move ignoring both the desires of most Southeast Alaskans and economic realities in the region, Congressman Don Young recently introduced a bill called the "State National Forest Management Act" (H.R. 232), which would allow up to 2 million acres of federal lands in any state to be transferred to state ownership. Although this would outwardly appear to stimulate local economies, a little analysis shows that the measure would benefit only a small segment of the many businesses that rely on public lands for their operations. Not only are the majestic trees of Southeast Alaska a key driver of the booming tourism economy but they are also critical to the health of wild salmon runs that support commercial fishing, sportfishing and tourism businesses, which together account for nearly 25 percent of employment in the region. Not to mention the potential impact on personal use and subsistence.
If passed, Rep. Young's measure would jeopardize all of this. Cutting down Tongass old growth and jeopardizing fish-based jobs and businesses in favor of the logging industry, which provides less than 1 percent of jobs here and has never produced economically viable timber without massive taxpayer subsidies, is simply bad policy and poor leadership. The benefits are greatly outweighed by the damage it would create.
Some 5,000 Alaskans recently weighed in to support conserving our fisheries and wild places during the Tongass Forest Plan Amendment. Many did so because they recognized a healthy, intact national forest is critical to sustaining the economy of Southeast Alaska. Congressman Young, please don't play politics with the main economic drivers of our region. It only takes one bad decision to mess it up — don't let it be yours.
— Michael Cole