Proposed Timber Sale Prompts Habitat Concern

A US Forest Service decision to hold an old growth timber sale on Kuiu Island in Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska has raised concerns that logging would adversely impact salmon habitat.

As of Sept. 6, nobody had put in a bid for the 866-acre sale, of which 341 acres lie in high priority salmon producing watersheds, but bids were being accepted through Sept. 13.

The cold water fisheries conservation organization Trout Unlimited Alaska contends that the Forest Service is fast-tracking what it seems an irresponsible old-growth timber sale from some of the best salmon habitats on the Tongass National Forest.

According to Trout Unlimited, the Forest Service is relying on outdated environmental analysis to prop up unsustainable logging at the expense of the region’s important fishing and tourism industries, without meaningful opportunity for public participation.

Trout Unlimited would like the Forest Service to go back and review that environmental assessment and reconsider whether the offering is in the best interests of Alaska, said Austin Williams, spokesman for TU.

According to Jason Anderson, deputy forest supervisor for the Tongass, timber harvest activities under the Tongass National Forest Plan are very conservative, in recognition of the importance of salmon to the people and economies of Southeast Alaska. “All timber harvest under our plan requires the implementation of 100 foot ‘no harvest’ buffer on all fish bearing streams, in addition to other ‘best management practices’ designed to protect important fish habitat during and after timber harvest activities,” Anderson said, noting the agency’s duel responsibilities of providing timber resources and protecting salmon streams.

Under the proposed amendment to the current forest plan, new old growth sales in the Tongass 77 – the area of the Tongass’ most productive and valuable salmon and trout watersheds –would not be planned, he said.

“However, sales with existing records of decision, such as this one being advertised now, would not be retroactively affected,” he said. “This specific sale would be allowed under the new plan. The draft record of decision for the plan amendment out on the street now would not apply the new standards and guidelines to previous decisions.”