EXPECT DELAYS – Lines of traffic move slowly down Sawmill Creek Road today as a repaving project progresses near the Indian River bridge. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Federal Policy Change Heats Tongass Debate

JUNEAU (AP) — Critics and proponents are debating the merits of changes to federal environmental policy, including the effects on management of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.

The largest U.S. national forest will probably be impacted by the Trump administration’s recent revisions to the National Environmental Policy Act, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported  Wednesday.

Supporters have said the changes streamline a regulatory process that hampers development on federal lands.

Natalie Dawson, executive director of Audubon Alaska, said the updates engender less public engagement, which was a founding principle of the environmental act’s framework.

Only substantive comments about projects will be accepted under the new rules, meaning expressions of general concerns about issues such as logging near animal or fish habitat will not be considered.

“You may not have the time to sit down with all the maps and documents and provide a site-specific analysis of the federal agency action, and yet you are an incredibly important stakeholder in this process,” she said.

The Tongass forest is scheduled to be exempted from the federal Roadless Rule, which could open up more access to logging.

Dawson said previously well-attended public meetings with federal agencies on some issues like the Roadless Rule may no longer take place under the rule revisions, which could be overturned by a new presidential administration.

Public meetings will only happen when appropriate and there is no clarity about which federal agency or agencies will make that determination or decide if a project warrants a full environmental review, she said.

Tessa Axelson, executive director of the Alaska Forest Association, a timber industry group, said she thinks streamlining the environmental policy act will be beneficial.

“I don’t see anything necessarily that is going to result in the loss of public input into the process,” Axelson said.

The previous version of the act caused difficulties for loggers trying to bid on federal timber sales and plan for a predictable supply, she said.

“What we want is a process that is responsive to the law and also ensures that the professionals, that agencies are held to a standard for producing things timely and in such a way that is not so burdensome to small business operators,” Axelson said.

August 5, 2020

A Note To Our Readers

Reopening: Phase One:


On March 30 the Daily Sitka Sentinel began taking precautions against the coronavirus, which was starting to show up in Alaska.

We closed our building to the public and four key employees started working remotely. Home delivery was suspended to protect our carriers from exposure to the virus.

Four months later, the virus is still with us and the precautions remain in effect.

In appreciation for the willingness of our subscribers to pick up their daily paper at drop-off sites, the Sentinel was free to all readers, and subscriptions were extended without charge.

As of August 1 the Sentinel is once again charging for subscriptions, but the present method of having subscribers pick up their papers at designated sites will continue.

The expiration date of all subscriptions has been extended without charge for an additional four months.

We thank our readers for their support in these uncertain times, and especially those who paid for the paper despite the free offer.

We look forward to the time when we can safely resume home delivery.

To check on the expiration of your subscription or to make a payment please call 747-3219. The subscription email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We also will be mailing out reminder cards.

The single copy price is again 75 cents. The news racks do not require coins to open, but we ask that the 75 cents for a non-subscription single copy sale be paid with coins in the slot.

– The Sitka Sentinel Staff


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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 8-7-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 11:20 a.m. Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 53

Total statewide – 3,536

Total (cumulative) deaths – 25

Active cases in Sitka – 20 (14 resident; 6 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 15 (11 resident; 4 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 141.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 




August 2000

High prices for chum salmon, low pink returns, and record numbers of fish in Deep Inlet have turned the Sitka fishing grounds into Route 66 this summer. “Overall it’s been a fantastic season so far,” said Steve Reifenstuhl, operations manager for the Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association.

August 1970

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Ireney, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, will head a gathering of Orthodox prelates from North American and abroad in ceremonies canonizing the first American Orthodox saints, Father Herman of Alaska. A group of Sitkans will fly to Kodiak for the event.