U.S. Forest Service continues talks with public regarding stewardship contracts
The U.S. Forest Service continues to host a series of meetings with members of the community to discuss the possibilities of a stewardship contract in connection with the Tonka Timber sale.
Forest Ranger Jason Anderson initiated, and is facilitating, the workshops to gain a better understanding of what the public wants.
“It's just a chance to have some communication, discussion regarding a broad range of projects,” said Anderson. “A chance for people to have a creative dialogue about what they want from their landscape,” he added.
The sale will provide an estimated 38 MMBF (millions of board feet of timber) of timber, and create up to 183 jobs for two to three seasons, and it's likely that most of the economic benefits of the sale will go out of the area, Anderson said.
“The Tonka Timber sale by itself isn't really going to help Petersburg that much,” Anderson said.
Part of the discussions will be what stipulations will be attached to timber receipts.
An estimated $7.6 million will be generated in harvesting, processing and selling the wood products.
The contract front-runners are Alcan Forest Products out of Ketchikan, and Viking Lumber, out of Craig on Prince of Wales Island.
Stewardship contract authority allows the district to retain some of those receipts, instead of it all going straight to the general fund.
A group including fishermen, loggers, small business owners and city officials met at the district office on Friday night to discuss what types of things could go into the stewardship contract.
“Are there particular activities that would be easy enough for community operators to bid upon associated with that timber sale, that would actually improve or increase the amount of economic benefit that the project has? Are there restoration activities that might off-set some of the amount of impact that will come from that project? Because there will be, you are going to harvest timber on a landscape that a lot of people hunt and find value in,” he said.
“It's more than just Tonka,” Anderson said opening the discussion to the group to discuss the bigger picture. “It's a complex topic,” he added.
Part of the group discussion focused on what stewardship obligations should be attached to the sale. Habitat restoration and the clearing of blocked culverts (or red pipes) were among the items discussed during the lengthy meeting.
There are 38 red pipes on the Lindenberg Peninsula. Red pipes are where fish cannot pass during a portion of their lifespan. Culverts can be blocked by excessive bedload, road fill material falling into culverts, woody debris or beaver activity.
“Part of this whole process is about jobs. It's also about landscape, but it is about jobs. It would seem if we are operating under this stewardship authority that there may be a way to insert that into the contract,” said Becky Knight.
This led the group into the discussion of “Best Value” contracting. Price is still a major component of the sale, 'Best Value' contract offers things that equal price, or some other goal or value, such as the percentage of wood allowed to be exported.
“I would surely be in favor of any clause that could be put into this sale that would minimize the amount of export. In the Tonka sale, there's a situation here where a great majority of the timber … all of the valuable stuff anyway, will be exported. And that's 38 million board feet that's on the road systems, close to Petersburg, and it could be a future inventory of timber that could be used for small operators here. And that will be gone in just a couple of years, here as soon as that sale is started. That opportunity will be gone,” said Eric Lee. “To me, the Tonka Timber sale is a huge loss to the community because that inventory is liquidated.”
According to Anderson, the discussions will continue between the Forest Service and community members. The meetings are open to the public. The next meeting will be held on May 23 at 6:30 at the Forest Service district office.