A Shared Vision for the Tongass

Photo by Alan Corbett

By Erin Heist

Though the days of timber barons have long expired, Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is no stranger to timber wars in recent decades. However, with a recent and hard-fought amendment to the Tongass Land Management Plan (TLMP) by TU and many partners, Southeast Alaskans formed a shared vision for the Tongass, seeking to enter a new chapter of sustainable young-growth timber harvest that served tourism, fishing and timber industries alike. ​

Finally, it felt like Southeast Alaskans could move forward together.

Or so we had thought.

​Sen. Lisa Murkowski is now considering taking action to roll back this sustainable and widely-supported new amendment.

In doing so, the senator would turn her back on the progress made through a comprehensive, fair, and public process in order to please one small constituency: the old-growth timber industry. ​

The TLMP amendment received 272,669 comments over two years. More than 7,200 Alaskans voiced support for protecting high-value fish and wildlife habitat as part of the TLMP amendment.

The amended TLMP sets the stage for sustainable young-growth harvest through a gradual shift over 15 years from unsustainable old-growth logging. This shift will take advantage of existing roads, which avoids the need for expensive new road construction and the resulting damage to valuable fish and wildlife habitat.

Commercial, sport and subsistence fishing accounts for more than 10 percent of regional employment. Recreation and tourism accounts for more than 14 percent of regional employment. The lands and streams put off-limits for old-growth logging in the amended plan directly support these industries by protecting some of the most high-value fish and wildlife watersheds in the Tongass.

The Amended Tongass Land Management Plan was built to benefit all Southeast Alaskans for generations to come: culturally, commercially and recreationally.

The TLMP amendment was based on the unanimously-adopted recommendations of the Tongass Advisory Committee (TAC). At the TAC table were members of the logging industry, the State of Alaska, Alaska Native tribes and corporations, municipal leaders, and conservation organizations. Their directive? To work together to move the Tongass National Forest away from the old-growth timber harvest wars of the past, and build a road-map for sustainable harvest of young-growth timber. Through years of dialogue, science and compromise, that is exactly what they accomplished.

If you live in Alaska, please consider calling Sen. Murkowski now and let her know you support the fish and wildlife protections in the current Tongass Plan.

The Senator can be reached at (202)-224-6665. When you call, leave your full name, where you are from in Alaska, and state something like:

“I support the Tongass plan amendment and the public process that created it. Please keep the Tongass plan in place.”

Thank you for your help!

Erin Heist is the Southeast Alaska outreach coordinator for TU’s Alaska Program. She lives and works in Junueau.

By Jenny Weis.