Selling timber from the country’s largest national forest has long been a money-losing endeavor heavily subsidized by taxpayers, as well as causing severe damage to the Tongass’s old growth forest and its wildlife.
For Immediate Release
Forest Service Cuts Back Costly Wrangell Island Timber Sale
The Forest Service is downsizing the latest old-growth clearcut on the Tongass National Forest in response to market realities. The Wrangell Island timber sale is being reduced from 56 million board feet to 5-7 million board feet (4,800 acres to 428 acres), to be sold in small amounts over several years.
Patrick Lavin, Alaska representative for Defenders of Wildlife, issued this statement:
“Selling timber from the country’s largest national forest has long been a money-losing endeavor heavily subsidized by taxpayers, as well as causing severe damage to the Tongass’s old growth forest and its wildlife. The fact that most of the original Wrangell sale would have lost money again illustrates the largely uneconomic nature of the Tongass timber industry.
“While the effort to reduce the project size and benefit the local community is welcome, Defenders of Wildlife hopes the Forest Service can begin to avoid the substantial expenses associated with developing unrealistic old growth logging proposals that are unlikely to pencil out.
“Further, Defenders of Wildlife calls upon the Forest Service to follow its own expert recommendations and expand the Old-Growth Habitat Reserves on Wrangell Island to meet minimum criteria, and to follow its own wolf management recommendations on Wrangell Island, which it has not yet done.”
In response to analyses demonstrating that most of the timber on Wrangell Island is not economical to cut down, the Forest Service has dramatically reduced the size of its latest sale to focus on the small portion that may prove profitable.
Instead of clearcutting 10 times the amount of old-growth or more and exporting it to Asia at taxpayer expense, the Forest Service has scaled this project back to where it can potentially benefit the community and local economy. It is now anticipated that most timber sold from this project will be processed on Wrangell Island, benefitting local mills and providing more local jobs and products. This stands in stark contrast to other southeast Alaska projects featuring logs largely or entirely exported to Asia, as is proposed for next year's Forest Service sale on North Kuiu island.
Scaling the project to local needs will also reduce impacts on wildlife, such as Sitka black-tailed deer, Queen Charlotte goshawks, and the Alexander Archipelago wolf. Road density and old-growth deer habitat on Wrangell Island are already at levels deemed insufficient to support wolves and deer. The Forest Service's decision also calls for a reassessment of project impacts to several wildlife species.
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