Sen. Lisa Murkowski Skeptical Of Forest Service’s Tongass Plan

Beached logs pile up in Shoal Cove on Revilla Island in the Tongass National Forest. A new report challenges old-growth logging spending in the forest. (Jim Baichtal/USFS)
Beached logs pile up in Shoal Cove on Revilla Island in the Tongass National Forest. A new report challenges old-growth logging spending in the forest. (Jim Baichtal/USFS)

Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell defended his management of the Tongass National Forest today to the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the panel, says the service isn’t allowing enough timber sales to keep what remains of the logging industry in Southeast Alaska in business.

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Tidwell says he’s planning sales of 70 million board feet a year for the next two years.

Tidwell: “We are putting up more. It’s not adequate. The bridge timber we talk about, to be able to provide the bridge until we can move into the second growth, we were able to put Big Thorne sale out last year. We’re optimistic we’ll be moving forward with it this year.”

Murkowski: “We’ve got a little bit of an ESA issue with Big Thorne. You and I both know that. So  to say that we’ve got it out there and it’s going to be this big bridge out there, the people on Prince of Wales aren’t so optimistic right now.”

Murkowski was referring to the Endangered Species Act and an expected battle over the Alexander Archipelago Wolf.

This was the last of three hearings she has held to examine budgets of the departments her committee oversees. Murkowski says the president’s proposed budget for the Forest Service doesn’t do right by Southeast Alaska.

“But I don’t think you are offering anything more than you have, which is nothing,” Murkowski said. “Nothing to the people of the Tongass.”

Murkowski says she wants a solution for communities that depend on the Secure Rural Schools program. SRS distributes money to local governments in and near National Forests. Last year, it provided more than $14 million for roads and schools in Alaska. But Congress let the program expire last fall, leaving in its place an old formula based on forest revenues that gives the whole state just half a million dollars to share.