Tongass Forest advisers finish review of logging transition plan

Aerial view of Tongass National Forest. (Creative Commons Photo by Alan Wu)
Aerial view of Tongass National Forest. (Creative Commons Photo by Alan Wu)

The Tongass Advisory Committee ended a 16-month series of meetings Thursday, formally completing its effort to advise the Tongass National Forest in a transition from old to young growth logging.

The committee met in Ketchikan last week to finalize its recommendations to the U.S. Forest Service and review the agency’sdraft Environmental Impact Statement for a forest plan amendment.

The plan would transition the Tongass to second-growth logging in 16 years.

Les Cronk is a committee co-chair and a timber industry representative. He said the committee was happy with the Forest Service’s use of their recommendations in the agency’s preferred alternative.

“As far as our recommendations for the transition, we were. It fell short in certain areas when it came to the implementation and monitoring that we also recommended, so we have a few other recommendations,” Cronk said. “But as far as what needed to go into the plan amendment, yes.”

The committee began meeting in August 2014. Its charter ends in February. But Andrew Thoms, a conservation representative on the committee, said they will stay involved.

“We’re going to keep working together with the Forest Service, and other people that are on the TAC, to see that the implementation recommendations and the plan are put together in a way that is successful moving forward,” Thoms said.

Committee members are still working on a plan for a multi-stakeholder collaborative to provide input as the transition is implemented.

At the end of the meeting, committee members agreed the process was challenging, but that it went well.

Cronk said committee members had a lot of concerns at the beginning, but they were committed to finding a solution.

“People stayed at the table and worked through, compromised, and really did a commendable job of handling a very difficult topic: to come up with a unanimous consensus on how to achieve, hopefully, a positive transition for the Tongass,” Cronk said.

The Tongass Advisory Committee is made up of representatives from local government, Native tribes, the timber industry, environmental organizations and other forest users.

The draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Tongass forest plan amendment is open for public comment through Feb. 22.