Letter to the Editor

In response to Jess Vogt’s column of February 8, I would like to correct some misinformation being spread through media outlets about the Tongass National Forest Plan Amendment. This Forest Plan Amendment for the Tongass represents a new level in stakeholder and cooperating agency collaboration that many see as unparalleled in forest planning. This Amendment was for the original 1997 Plan, which was decided under the Clinton administration. Regardless of the administration, the plan is designed to provide for the multiple-use mission the Forest Service is given for managing 193 million acres of National Forests. The Tongass, at 17 million acres, is the largest, but does not contain a full or contiguous 17 million acres of forest. Quite the contrary, the forest here is broken up by mountain ranges, rocks, ice, and a substantial amount of sea and fresh water. The claim that we are opening about 3-plus million acres to logging is a misnomer, because that acreage was never closed to logging. What is important is, of that acreage, only 663,000 acres is designated for suitable timber harvesting over the next 10 years. The plan for harvesting on the Tongass is tied to a phased-in strategy called the Timber Program Adaptive Management Strategy, which ties proposed harvest levels to the capacity of local mills to process the timber. Those local mills currently need about 85 million board feet a year to maintain their operations. A million board feet, for reference, is only enough lumber to build about 83 3-bedroom houses. This phased in Adaptive Management Strategy calls for timber to be harvested from the existing roaded area, with limited use of low-value roadless areas until the capacity from the mills exceeds 100 MMBF a year for two consecutive years. This approach was partly developed with significant collaboration from many diverse stakeholders from the timber and fishing industries, as well as national and regional conservation and environmental groups. You can read the full text of the Forest Plan, the decision and the Environmental Impact Statement at www.tongass-fpadjust.net for the full story.Phil Sammon, Public Affairs Officer
Ketchikan, AK