Juneau, Alaska (KINY) The Aububon of Alaska said a budget rider proposed in Washington today would undo the 2016 Tongass Land Management Plan amendment.
Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski introduced a rider on the Senate Interior and Environment appropriations bill that would erase the 2016 Tongass Land Management Plan (TLMP) amendment and replace it with the old 2008 plan. “While the 2016 TLMP amendment had flaws, it kept the momentum moving toward ending old-growth clearcut logging on the Tongass National Forest,” said Susan Culliney, Audubon Alaska’s Policy Director. “Returning to the 2008 plan will be a significant step backward in the effort to transition away from this outdated practice. Perpetuating clearcutting is bad for American taxpayers who lose millions of dollars subsidizing the industry. This bill is a loser for ecology, economy, and public process.”
One of the stated reasons for this bill is maintaining the economics of the timber industry in Southeast Alaska, but it does not call for an assessment as to whether clearcutting old-growth is economic. Fishing and tourism far outstrip the timber industry, and continuing to clearcut old-growth has the potential to undermine these burgeoning sectors of the regional economy.
About seven percent of Southeast Alaska used to be characterized by the large-tree, old-growth forest that makes the region so magnificent. Now only three percent of Southeast Alaska contains these massive trees. “If we want the Tongass to remain a healthy ecosystem for birds and wildlife and a place that the tourism and fishing industries can rely on, we must protect the incredible large-tree old-growth that still remains,” said Nils Warnock, Audubon Alaska’s Executive Director.
The 2016 TLMP amendment took years to develop and incorporated thousands of public comments. Senator Murkowski’s bill would swiftly undo that years-long process and the resulting compromise, mandating a renewed amendment process with specified outcomes. “If this bill passes, it would take a heavy legislative hand to what should remain an agency process best left to the US Forest Service, the agency tasked with making an informed decision. Overriding public process is overreach at its worst,” said Culliney.