Petersburg Pilot -

Timber harvest plan altered, remains contentious

 


Mayor Mark Jensen responded to questions City of Kupreanof resident Dave Beebe posed regarding Jensen’s support of the South Mitkof Timber sales.

Beebe led the charge against the timber sales based on public safety concerns. He cited peer reviewed scientific studies that documented unstable slopes on Mitkof Island and landslide hazards as a result of logging. He and others also raised concerns regarding logging and its negative effects on deer habitat and current low hunter success rates.

The Petersburg Borough Assembly joined the City of Kupreanof in sending a letter to the University of Alaska president two weeks ago requesting the suspension of contract finalization for timber sales on South Mitkof Island located adjacent to Banana Point and along the Wrangell Narrows across from Keene Island.

In response to the letter, University of Alaska Associate Vice President Kit Duke wrote that University and the Division of Forestry officials met with Jensen and Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht “…to address the sale and address any concerns they may wish to present. Both Mayor Jensen and Mr. Giesbrecht voiced support for the timber sales at that time.”

Jensen said he did meet with two officials last February and that they told him their plans regarding logging operations around the state to keep small logging businesses going.

“During that meeting I did not say I approved it,” Jensen said. “I said I support the logging industry. I did state in that comment, like I do anytime I’m in a meeting, that that is my opinion. It is not the opinion of the assembly. It is my position only.”

Beebe said the new borough was formed under the notion that outlying residents would be represented fairly and that Jensen’s support didn’t reflect that idea.

He also said the issue of the South Mitkof timber sales isn’t about logging versus anti-logging.

“That is a false narrative,” Beebe said. “It is a straw man that needs to be extinguished right now and every member of the assembly really needs to update themselves in regards to what the real issues are, and it has to do with geology, and it has to do with biology, and you can’t make an informed comment or support anything unless you understand these issues.”

Jensen later responded to a comment Beebe made about relevant information cited by scientists in regard to slope stabilization and landslide hazards.

“You have to make sure you have correct information as well,” Jensen said.

The University is now adjusting its timber harvests on the two parcels after public safety concerns were raised.

“The University has further adjusted the timber harvest prescription to address safety concerns identified by the University and raised by the public. These adjustments include the removing of Tract C, adjoining the Banana Point boat launch area, from the timber harvest, reducing the timber harvest area along the Mitkof Highway to address slope stability concerns, and utilizing only selective helicopter harvesting for the South Mitkof site,” wrote Patrick Kelly, University regional resource manager.

In an email, Beebe writes that a partial victory has been achieved by their efforts.

“Our concerns for subsistence impacts fell on deaf ears, but concerns for public safety regarding unstable slopes have been vindicated—in part, though not clear to what extent— as no details were offered,” Beebe writes. “I suspect in all likelihood they will still be logging on unstable slopes though.”

 

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