U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she doesn’t see any good news for the families in Southeast Alaska that still depend on the harvest of Tongass timber. She says nothing Congress does seems to increase the national timber harvest, and Murkowski she’s not confident the transition to second-growth in the Tongass will work.
“I don’t disagree that you’ve got a hard job here managing things,” she told Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell at a budget hearing today, “but I don’t know what to tell the folks in the Tongass anymore.”
Putting some of the blame on environmental lawsuits, Murkowski says communities that used to rely on timber now have to rely on subsidies, like the Secure Rural Schools program. And, Murkowski says, the Forest Service budget for recreation in Alaska dropped some 23 percent over five years.
“So I’m discouraged. I’m just discouraged. Because I don’t where the communities I was born in, like Ketchikan, or raised in, like Wrangell, I don’t know where they go,” she said.
Tidwell says coping with the nation’s increasingly large forest fires is sapping his agency. But the Forest Service chief says, after years of decreases, the recreation budget for Alaska finally went up last year.
“This budget request does maintain that level of recreation funding. I wish it was more,” Tidwell said. “But until we can fix this fire issue, it takes up so much of our constraint, that we’re going to continue to see these impacts.”
The Alaska Wilderness League issued a written statement after the hearing endorsing an increase in recreation funding to support jobs in tourism and fishing.