Forrest Cole, Tongass National Forest Supervisor, last week announced the decision to allow the Tonka Timber Sale on Kupreanof Island to proceed. Now an official appeals process will take place for those opposing the sale. For those in favor, a planning process will begin.
According to the Forest Service the sale will provide an estimated 38 MMBF (millions of board feet of timber) of timber, and create up to 183 jobs. These jobs will include stevedoring, road construction, barging and transportation, fuel delivery and mill jobs, said Petersburg District Ranger Jason Anderson.
“The Tongass averages about 35 MMBF a year right now, this is just a little bit over that,” he said.
An estimated $7.6 million will be generated in harvesting, processing and selling the wood products.
“We've got a pretty strong level of support to maintain the current industry. I'd say just about as much support for it as there are challenges to it,” Anderson said. “This particular sale offers an opportunity to continue providing wood to the industry as a whole, at a fraction of what is actually projected in the Forest Plan.”
According to Anderson, the project will not operate in the roadless areas. The planned 9.3 miles of road built will be extensions of existing roads and will be closed once the project is completed.
“It should provide a little bit of an opportunity for the timber industry to keep working its way in the next few year’s worth of volume, based on what we are projecting,” he said.
Under a stewardship contract, the government can use the money generated from the timber sale to support other industry in the same area. For example, Tonka proceeds may help fund initiatives to improve fish passage and reduce soil erosion along roads, potentially improving habitat conditions for salmonids, Anderson said.
“[This] gives us a little bit of breathing room to produce some sales in some other project areas,” Anderson said. “The single greatest challenge to the Tongass in the last 10 years is to provide a stable supply of wood to the industry.”
Although the Tonka Timber sale will provide wood to the industry in a sustainable way, there will be some impact, Anderson said.
“I'm sure there are some folks out there with some concerns. I've heard about them here,” he said adding that the loggers will use the same roads as hunters, trappers and recreational users of the forest.
“There are definitely some folks who are concerned about the impact in their own backyard,” he said.
This decision marks a mid-way point in the process; the next major step is public comment through a series of collaborative meetings to determine what the community wants.
The first collaborative public meeting will be held May 3, at the Petersburg District Office. There is also an appeal period on this decision for members of the public who participated in the comment process in November and December 2011.
A legal notice was published in the Ketchikan Daily News on Monday, marking the start of the 45 day appeal period.