The following press release is courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service:
KETCHIKAN, Alaska – M. Earl Stewart, the Forest Supervisor for the Tongass National Forest, Alaska Region, has signed the final Record of Decision (ROD) for the amended Tongass National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Tongass Forest Plan). The Final ROD documents the Forest Supervisor’s rationale for approving the Tongass Forest Plan Amendment. The Tongass Forest Plan Amendment will become effective in 30 days.
The Tongass Forest Plan Amendment focuses on accelerating the transition from old-growth timber harvest to young-growth while maintaining opportunities for a viable timber industry in Southeast Alaska. The amended plan will support more sustainable and diverse local economies by stabilizing timber supply, minimizing social conflict about the harvest of old growth trees, and maintaining wildlife habitat. The amended plan also contributes to sustainable and diverse local economies by promoting renewable energy development.
“Through years of community collaboration efforts, the Tongass has sought a resolution to long-standing conflicts regarding timber management,” said Earl Stewart, Tongass Forest Supervisor. “This amendment is the culmination of those collaborative efforts, and it is aligned with the unanimous recommendations of the Tongass Advisory Committee (TAC).”
The amended plan reflects the unanimous recommendations of the TAC to the Forest Service. The TAC included 15 members who represented a broad and diverse range of viewpoints and expertise. They were from geographically diverse communities in Alaska and the western U.S. and included representatives of state and local government, Alaska Native Corporations, the timber industry, the environmental community and the general public.
Consistent with one of the TAC’s recommendations, the plan amendment embraces an adaptive management strategy, and includes commitments to complete an ongoing young growth inventory with the State of Alaska, monitor actual timber harvest levels compared to projected levels, review the effects of harvesting young growth in priority areas, review the effectiveness of the plan at five and ten years, and adjust management as needed.
The plan amendment has a narrow focus and maintains the Tongass Conservation Strategy. Wilderness or Wild and Scenic River Designations from the 2008 Forest Plan did not change. The final ROD does not propose rulemaking to modify the 2001 Roadless Rule application to the Tongass National Forest.
The amended plan and ROD are the culmination of a comprehensive public involvement process that sought, and carefully considered, input from the public, youth, local, state and federal agencies, federally recognized tribes, as well as previous decades of collaborative efforts. They are also consistent with a 2013 Memorandum from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who directed consideration of an amendment to the Tongass Forest Plan to promote a transition to young-growth management.
After publication of the draft amendment, public meetings and federal subsistence hearings that were held in nine communities across Southeast Alaska, approximately 165,000 public comments were received on the proposed amended plan and DEIS. Tribal organizations and corporations were engaged and consulted in the planning process, as were local youth from Ketchikan High School.
Following review and written response to issues raised in eligible objections, the final ROD is now published. The amended Forest Plan will become effective 30 days from publication.
To view the Tongass Forest Plan Amendment, Final EIS, and Final Record of Decision visit: http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/R10/Tongass/PlanAmend.