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Alaska Timber Task Force Releases Report

October 16, 2012, Juneau, Alaska – The Alaska Timber Task Force today released its report to Governor Sean Parnell recommending steps to improve economic conditions in Alaska’s forest-dependent communities.

Created by Administrative Order 258, the nine-member Alaska Timber Jobs Task Force reviewed issues affecting Alaska’s timber industry. Largely due to declining timber volume offered for sale by the U.S. Forest Service, the Southeast Alaska timber industry has nearly collapsed.

“Inadequate federal timber sales and reckless lawsuits by environmental groups bent on stopping all logging, and wiping out Alaska jobs along the way, are unacceptable,” Governor Parnell said. “This report provides clear and reasonable steps that can assist communities, schools, small businesses, and families in Southeast Alaska.”

Key recommendations include placing up to 2 million acres of federal land in a trust managed by the state, and seeking federal legislation granting states the option of running timber sale programs on federal lands. A state-run program would operate under state forestry standards and state laws.

The report looked at the state of the timber industry throughout Alaska. The industry is small but growing in the Interior and Southcentral Alaska, largely due to a dependable supply from state-managed timberland, according to the report. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources and businesses are working together as woody biomass becomes a cost-effective heating and energy option in rural Alaska.

In Southeast Alaska, however, the downward spiral of lost jobs and closed schools has continued. Despite federal law requiring enough timber sales to meet demand, the Forest Service choked off the timber supply; two of the last three mid-sized mills have closed.

In the past decade, Southeast Alaska timber jobs declined from 1,500 to roughly 200, the region’s population dropped 12 percent, and six schools closed.

The task force provided 34 recommendations to the governor addressing short-, mid- and long-term needs to stabilize and grow the timber industry.

These recommendations include:

·         Expanding existing state forests and establishing new state forests

·         Revising state statutes and regulations to address the needs of small timber operators

·         Seeking state management of federal timber acreage in Southeast Alaska, or improved federal policies to meet timber supply demand

·         Seeking a 250,000-acre state-federal land exchange, with dispersal of the newly acquired lands to Southeast communities for local economic use

·         Pressing the federal government to advertise additional timber sales and exempt Alaska national forests from the 2001 Roadless Rule

The task force members include representatives from state agencies, the Governor’s Office, the U.S. Forest Service, the timber industry, and Southeast Alaska communities. The U.S. Forest Service representative was a non-voting member of the task force.

The report is available at:

http://gov.alaska.gov/parnell_media/resources_files/TimberReport_101612.pdf

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