BOX OF TREASURES – Haida artist Holly Churchill, of Ketchikan, shows Sitka High School senior Myles Magie a weaving technique on a cedar bark basket Wednesday in the Sitka High art room. Churchill finished a three-week residency today sponsored by the Sitka School District and Sealaska Heritage Institute's Sharing Our Box of Treasures" program. Her residency included work in the high school's new dual-credit program with UAS, the Northwest Coast Arts class, and sessions with Blatchley Middle School and the Sitka Native Education Program Culture Class. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

SE Conference Hears Timber-Needs Report

By GARLAND KENNEDY
Sentinel Staff Writer
    During the timber industry presentation to the just-concluded Southeast Conference here, Bryce Dahlstrom, vice president of Viking Lumber, and Jerry Ingersoll, U.S. Forest Service deputy regional forester, endorsed continued and expanded logging in the Tongass National Forest.
    Ingersoll told the crowd he hopes the public will view the Forest Service “as public servants.”
    At the moment, 50 million board feet of timber, including 15 million board feet of old growth, are under contract for logging, he said.
    “That’s not enough. That’s not nearly enough,” Ingersoll said. “Our business partners depend on a stable, reliable, predictable supply. They’d like to have two or three years of timber under contract.” He added that “this is less than a year’s worth of supply.”
    Viking, located in Klawock, is the last sizable sawmill operating in Southeast. The company would be a major beneficiary of a special Roadless Rule for Alaska, which is in the process of adoption under an initiative backed by the U.S. Department of the Interior with support by the State of Alaska.
     As it stands, the 2001 Roadless Rule prohibits the construction or maintenance of roads in national forest areas designated as roadless areas, though exemptions are sometimes granted. Dahlstrom said at the meeting  he hopes for an “Alaska state exemption for the Roadless Rule... (and) that decision should be coming up pretty soon.”
    Ingersoll said that for industrial uses of Tongass timber he was “looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 to 50 million board feet as overall, seeking to meet market demand.” He noted that one acre of the forest land would produce roughly 20,000 board feet of lumber.
    Though old growth trees are currently in the mix, Ingersoll said that he’s “committed to a transition from old growth to young growth.”
    He said the Forest Service is reforming the environmental impact statement process with an eye toward reducing the time needed to get timber sales approved. Previously, the Forest Service was “doing environmental impact statements that took years, each of them for an individual timber sale… We’ve taken a new approach these last couple of years, we’re doing environmental impact statements for a whole range of activities across a large landscape for a ten-year period.”
    He hoped this would speed the development process. He noted that the role of the Forest Service “is to provide good staff work to the decision maker.”
    As to the costs and benefits of federal timber sales, Ingersoll said “I think there are challenges… I think it’s important for us to be good economic partners with the communities here. I don’t think it’s fair to any of these communities to say ‘you cost more than you’re worth, we’re going to shut you down.’ All these economies and all of these folks, these people matter and their jobs, their economic vitality matter.
    “And our purpose in supporting the timber industry in Southeast Alaska is not about making money for the government – never has been. It’s about supporting communities and supporting jobs in rural communities and providing a sustainable supply of resources that keeps people working.”
    He said for the Forest Service, “timber is one of our most important programs.”
    In his brief remarks to the Southeast Conference gathering, Dahlstrom said that “the timber industry is optimistic.” He also noted that recent Chinese tariffs against U.S. imports “are really hurting business... The Chinese government targeted spruce with a 25 percent tariff.”
    Ingersoll stated that the Forest Service is “investing in a public good around keeping reliable manufacturing jobs in Southeast Alaska.”

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