Support for Harvest in Tongass National Forest

February 13, 2015

Mr. Jason Anderson
Designated Federal Officer
Tongass National Forest Advisory Committee
U.S. Forest Service
Juneau, AK 99801

Dear Mr. Anderson:

I am writing on behalf of the Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc., (RDC) to express support for the harvest of old growth timber in the Tongass National Forest in a volume of at least 150MMBF per year. Such harvests are sustainable and would sufficiently maintain the current industry until a time that studies show that young growth will be more economically viable. Current young growth levels and locations are not yet robust enough to support an industry and have at least several decades before it can be economically harvested on a broad scale. In the interim, the Forest Service needs to allow economic old growth timber to be harvested in a volume of at least 150MMBF per year, which would be sufficient to meet the current market demand and is well within the current allowable sale quantity.

RDC is a statewide, non-profit, membership-funded organization founded in 1975. The RDC membership is comprised of individuals and companies from Alaska’s oil and gas, mining, timber, tourism, and fisheries industries, as well as Alaska Native corporations, local communities, organized labor, and industry support firms. RDC’s purpose is to link these diverse interests together to encourage a strong, diversified private sector in Alaska and expand the state’s economic base through the responsible development of our natural resources.

Sustaining the current timber industry and the infrastructure that supports it, is critical to retaining services, communities and intellectual capital necessary to make a successful transition to a young growth industry. Southeast Alaska communities and local industries take pride in the region's forestry traditions and help to cultivate a true “Working Forest” ethic. Creating certainty in the land base on the Tongass for the sustenance of the timber industry is a critical need.

Congressional and Tongass initiated policies have reduced the available harvest land base to less than 5% and even the young growth land base has been reduced by almost 50% due to protective policies. RDC supports the stabilization and securing of a fully functional “working forest” to attract forest industry investment to the region and create long-term sustainable employment in local communities. RDC further supports increasing the acres of young growth within the Tongass National Forest’s development land base to insure there is sufficient available timber to provide for an achievable transition at the appropriate time in the future.

Resources from the Tongass National Forest have helped to build and fuel the Alaska economy, and Southeast in particular. The Tongass is unique in that major strides in forest health, productivity, management, and wood utilization have contributed to a vibrant and sustainable natural resource-based economy and a way of life in Southeast Alaska.

The transition to young growth in the Tongass should be based on scientific silviculture and economic rationale, not politically driven by preservationist interests at the expense of communities and livelihoods of those living in the region. Forest products processing and manufacturing used to be one of the largest contributors to the Southeast Alaska economy. All users, from hikers, to hunters, to ecologists, fishermen, foresters, residents and visitors all value and can co-exist within the healthy Tongass National Forest.

Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc.