Boreal Forest | Wildlife
& Stream Protection | Forest
Products Industry |
| Renewable Resource | Largest
National Forest | 2nd Largest National
| Proper Silviculture | Tongass
Facts | Myths and Misconceptions
| Questions and Answers |
forests found in Alaska's interior are known as Boreal Forests.
These forests extend from the Kenai Peninsula to the Tanana
Valley near Fairbanks, and as far north as the foothills
of the Brooks Range. They stretch from the Porcupine River
near the Canadian border and west down the Kuskokwim River
valley. Species with commercial value include white spruce,
quaking aspen, and paper birch. Other species include black
spruce, balsam poplar, and larch.
forests are the product of extreme climatic factors. Temperatures
can vary as much as 160ºF from summer to winter. Summer
days are long and daylight hours in the winter months are
few. Slow, short growing periods cause the trees to have
tight growth rings, making the wood prized for strength
and delicate beauty. Within the boreal forest, conditions
vary considerably. North of the Alaska Range, precipitation
rarely exceeds 20 inches per year, so moisture from snow
melt nurtures the forests. Heavier snowfall and more rain
in Southcentral causes different growth and maturity rates
in the trees of that region.
forest industry in the Interior has been limited to small
mills and cottage industries. There is increased interest
in these resources, however, the state legislature recently
enacted laws that may encourage industry growth over the
are no endangered or threatened animal species in Alaska's
forest for all wildlife cannot exist. Different species
require different habitats. Harvesting and other management
activities add to this diversity. Often, wildlife increases
and flourishes after harvesting. As the forest is managed,
these increased populations can be maintained. And where
there is game, there are predators. Bear, wolf and human
hunters, find excellent herds of deer, moose and other browsing
Alaska Forest Resources and Practices Act guarantees that
streams and rivers are protected by strict regulations and
best management practices. Buffer strips along stream banks
are now required for all commercial harvest in Alaska on
federal, state and private land.
used to think debris in streams would be harmful to fish.
Now we know that this debris is actually necessary to create
shade pools and rearing habitat where fish can hide, rest
and spawn. The fishing industry in Alaska has experienced
record runs in the last decade.
Forest Products Industry
150 years of boom and bust, the Alaska Territory looked
for a year-round economy to bring families to the "Last
Frontier." With the signing of the original Tongass
Act in 1947, and construction of the first pulp mill in
Ketchikan in 1954, that long sought-after stability was
Alaska's forest products industry provides hundreds of jobs
and contributes millions of dollars to Alaska's economy.
Furthermore, each direct timber job creates at least three
indirect jobs for doctors, retailers, teachers, and more.
there are two distinct forest types. The coastal rainforest
begins in southern southeast Alaska, and extends through
Prince William Sound, and down the Kenai Peninsula to Afognak
and Kodiak Islands. The two largest national forests
in the United States are in this region. The boreal
forest covers much of interior and southcentral Alaska.
timber regions are managed by four landholders - the federal
government, 51%; state, university and local governments,
25%; Native corporations, 24%; and other private landowners,
0.4%. Most of the commercial timber harvest is in
the coastal zone, primarily on federal and Native corporation
is renewable, biodegradable and
recyclable. There is no other
resource that can replace wood in an environmentally sound
or economically feasible way.
year, each American consumes 630 pounds of paper and
lumber, equal to a 100 foot tall tree. Hundreds of
everyday items have their roots in Alaska's forests.
Paper and lumber are easily recognized, but other products
such as cellophane, rayon and fillers for everything from
toothpaste to ice cream to chewing gum may not be.
These, too, are products of our forests.
forest growth in the United States exceeds harvest by 37%.
More than 730 million acres of forest cover the U.S. - that
equals two-thirds of the forested area present when Columbus
landed in America. There is now 28% more standing
timber volume in the U.S. than in 1952.
there are 129 million forested acres across the state.
Sitka spruce, hemlock and cedar are the dominant species
in Southeast and Southcentral, while white spruce, black
cottonwood, aspen, and paper birch are found in the Interior
16.8 million acres, The Tongass National Forest
is the largest national forest in the United States.
Although established in 1907, only 400,000 acres have been
harvested to date. That's only 4% of the 9.5
million forested acres on the Tongass in almost 90 years.
primary species of trees in the Tongass are Sitka spruce,
western hemlock, western red cedar, and Alaska (yellow)
cedar. These trees are prized for their durability,
usefulness and beauty.
1997 Tongass Land Management Plan schedules 176,000 acres
for timber harvest over the next 100 years.
regeneration is so abundant in this area, that many new
trees quickly replace the harvested forests. Many
areas require thinning for healthy regrowth after the first
15 years and after about 50 years, the second growth area
will have more timber volume than the original old growth
Chugach National Forest (pronounced Chew'gatch)
is 5.9 million acres in south central Alaska, south and
east of Anchorage, encompassing the Prince William Sound
area and much of the Kenai Peninsula. Roughly the
size of Massachusetts and Rhode Island combined, the Chugach
is the second largest national forest in the United States,
next to the Tongass in Southeast Alaska.
by glacial ice, earthquakes and volcanoes, most of the Chugach
is managed as fish and wildlife habitat. Only about
6% of the land base is considered productive forest land,
so harvests are relatively small compared to other national
forests. The primary tree species are Sitka and white spruce.
Cottonwood, hemlock, black spruce and Lutz spruce also occur.
in 1907, the timber resources are only just beginning to
be developed for commercial use. Unfortunately, spruce
bark beetle infestations have killed much of the trees on
the Chugach in recent years. The entire Chugach, and much
of the Kenai region, has been affected by this pest.
is a scientific discipline which prepares professional foresters
to manage Alaska's forests. Management includes leaving
wildlife habitat areas along streams and shore lines. Logging
is planned with care to protect sensitive areas. Helicopters
are used in more sensitive areas to minimize road construction,
slash and snags are left for wildlife habitat, and so on.
species of trees need different methods of harvest for optimum
regrowth and economic return. In northern climates,
species like western hemlock and Sitka spruce desire openings
for optimum regeneration and regrowth. Clearcut logging
takes advantage of this tendency and allows young trees
the opportunity to thrive. Also, relatively thin bark
on these species makes them more susceptible to harm from
selective harvesting. Cedars are more shade tolerant
and could benefit from multiple age management in a mixed
regeneration takes place rapidly in Alaska's coastal forests,
seedlings growing as much as 4 feet per year for the first
people think trees shouldn't be cut at all, that they will
last forever. But forests are living systems - trees
grow up, grow old and die, whether they are harvested or
not. Benefits accrue to the local communities from
active management by professional foresters. That management
includes recreation, wildlife habitat protection as well
as timber harvests.
Tongass National Forest spans 16.8 million acres.
are 6.6 million acres within the Tongass National Forest
that are Congressionally designated Wilderness Areas,
National Monuments, and Roadless Areas. That accounts
for 39% of the Tongass. No logging is allowed in these
each acre of the Tongass that are scheduled for timber
harvest in the future, there are 10 acres of land designated
by Congress as Wilderness that will never be logged
and another 14 acres that are managed for recreation,
wildlife habitat and uses other than logging.
are 9,933,000 (9.9 million) forested acres in the Tongass
and 6,949,000 (6.9) acres of the Tongass are not forested.
That means 58% of the Tongass is covered by trees and
41% is covered by rock, meadows, water, etc.
the 9.9 million acres of trees on the Tongass there
are 4,233,455 (4.2 million) acres that have been deemed
by the land manager, the Forest Service, "non productive"
timber lands. So 43% of the forested acres on the Tongass
are "non-productive" which means they are
either lands not capable of growing commercial wood,
or land physically unsuitable for reasons such as steep
remaining forested acres comprise the area where timber
harvest may be planned. There is 3.6 million acres in
the available "commercial forest" of the Tongass.
That accounts for 37% of the forested acres of the Tongass,
or 22% of the entire Tongass.
Tongass Land Management Plan revised in 1997 plans to
harvest timber from 676,000 acres of the commercial
forest of the Tongass over a 100 year rotation. That
means that less than 10% the forested in the Tongass
will be cut in the next 100 years - a mere 4% of the
entire Tongass is available for timber management, which
means theres 96% left for many other uses!
Tongass is roughly the size of the entire state of West
new Tongass Land Management Plan provides for maintaining
deer habitat capability sufficient to sustain wolf populations
and current levels of human deer use.
importance of the beach and estuary buffers to a variety
of ecological functions is well established. The current
TLMP establishes 1,000 foot no harvest zones along beaches
and estuaries to protect important habitat for deer,
goshawks, marten, brown bear and bald eagles. The 1,000
foot no harvest zone along the coastline is in addition
to the millions of acres of forested lands in Wilderness
and Habitat Conservation Areas, where no logging is
President Theodore Roosevelt created the Tongass National
Forest in 1907 he did so with the utmost wisdom.
Roosevelt was way ahead of his time, recognizing as
early as 1903 the importance of multiple use. "...First
and foremost," President Roosevelt explained, "you
can never afford to forget for a moment what is the
object of our forest policy. That is not to preserve
the forests because they are beautiful, though that
is good in itself, nor because they are refuges for
the wild creatures of the wilderness, though that too
is good in itself; but the primary object of our forest
policy, as the land policy of the United States, is
the making of prosperous homes."
Truth About Alaska Logging
information below comes from the Forest Service in Region
10 and from their web site:http://www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass/forest_facts/tongass_timber/tongass_timber_program_questions.pdf
Anti-development groups allege that the Forest Service
spends $35 million per year subsidizing the timber program
The Forest Service budget for Alaska is about $114 million
this year. The Forest Service cost of preparing and
administering timber sales is about $36 per thousand
board feet (MBF). The government receives an average
stumpage of about $41 per MBF. Last year the timber
industry harvested about 50,000 MBF. The government
cost was about $1.8 million and the stumpage was about
Misinformed critics claim that the Forest Service has
a $900 million road maintenance backlog in Alaska.
The Forest Service spends about $11.9 million annually
grading roads, cutting roadside brush and upgrading
culverts to meet a new fish-passage requirement that
was adopted a few years ago. This money is spent on
maintaining the 1,200 miles of roads for passenger vehicles
to meet the need for improved road connections between
communities. The Forest Service also has proposed a
capital budget of about $735 million for paving roads,
upgrading bridges, etc. This is not road maintenance.
Some people have been misled to believe that the Government
will save $35 million annually by eliminating the timber
program in Alaska.
At the current low operating level (50,000 MBF per year)
timber sale preparation and administration costs are
about $1.8 million and the cost of complying with various
federal planning requirements including the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is about $5.5 million.
The cost of preparing these NEPA documents has risen
from about $40 to about $110 per MBF over the last few
years as a direct result of appeals and lawsuits. A
true savings could occur if the appeals and lawsuits
ended. That makes more sense than forcing hundreds of
people (taxpayers) out of work.
Incorrect but often repeated allegations suggest that
wolves, bears, deer, eagles, salmon, etc. are threatened
by logging on the Tongass.
There are no threatened or endangered animals on the
Tongass. The current Tongass Land Management Plan has
been reviewed by independent biologists who found the
Plan to be fully capable of meeting our obligations
to manage habitat for well-distributed, viable wildlife
Development critics claim that millions of acres of
roadless areas on the Tongass are threatened.
Only about 2% of the Tongass has been harvested in the
last 50 years. The road system that has been developed
for logging, recreation and for connecting communities
impacts only about 7% of the entire 17 million acre
forest. The current management plan allows continued
harvest of up to another 2% of the Tongass over the
next 50 years!
Many people believe, incorrectly, that there is no demand
for timber from the Tongass.
There is an enormous demand for Tongass timber. Lumber
and veneer prices are currently at very high levels.
Alaska’s wood has superior strength and appearance characteristics
compared to the softwood timber in the rest of our country.
The primary impediment to the timber industry is a reliable
timber supply that will allow our industry to be competitive
and sustainable. The federal government controls 94%
of the land, thus we must rely on a portion of those
lands to support our economic base.
Wilderness advocates allege that there is plenty of
timber available along the existing road system and
there is no need to enter any roadless areas.
Most of the timber remaining in the developed areas
was left for a specific conservation purpose such as
a stream buffer, winter deer habitat, scenic quality,
etc. Only about 30,000 MBF per year can be made available
without either violating the guidelines in the forest
plan or entering a few of the roadless areas. This would
not sustain even one medium size sawmill.
Environmental groups allege that most of the “big trees”
have already been logged and the Forest Service is targeting
the remaining “big trees” in their logging plans.
Most of the “big trees” are still standing. The largest
trees grow primarily along the beaches and streamsides.
The Forest Service maintains 200’ stream buffers and
1,000’ beach fringe buffers. The Forest Service has
also set aside old growth reserves that are predominately
higher value timber with larger trees. The average log
size on the Tongass is about 12 inches.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE-FOREST SERVICE
Release Date: Feb. 12, 2004
70% of the biggest trees and best timber stands already
seven percent of the total productive old-growth (400,000
acres out of 5,400,000 acres) has been harvested over
the last 100 years. About 15% of the very highest high
volume stands have been harvested, while about 85% of
the Forest’s highest volume old-growth remains unharvested.
Over the next 100 years, the Forest Plan permits harvest
of less than ten percent more of the high volume old-growth.
the part of the Tongass National Forest where logging isn’t
allowed all rocks, ice and muskeg?
are about 5 million acres of “commercial-size” timber
stands on the Tongass; of which about 4.5 million acres,
or 90%, are off-limits to timber harvesting. Over the
next 100 years, the current Forest Plan will permit harvest
of an additional 3-4% of the productive old-growth reducing
it from about 90% to around 87%. An additional 4.2 million
acres of low-productivity forest also will not have timber
the timber harvests scheduled by the Forest Service “rip
the biological heart” out of the Tongass?
Forest Plan was designed and written specifically to protect
the “biological heart” of the Forest. The Tongass National
Forest Plan has been scientifically reviewed by independent
biologists who found it to be fully capable of meeting
our obligations to manage habitat to maintain well-distributed,
viable wildlife populations. The old-growth strategy is
designed to provide for a level of timber harvest that
is consistent with protecting other resource values.
logging harmful to fish and wildlife habitat?
management can be consistent with wildlife objectives.
There are especially bright prospects for partial cutting
on the Tongass. Managing for a mosaic of forest patches
has been suggested for deer in southeast Alaska. In addition,
recent work suggests that certain types of partial cutting
conserves deer habitat and old-growth structure, while
maintaining the health of the forest. Silvicultural treatment
in second growth stands also enhances habitat for deer
and other species that depend on undergrowth.
Forest Service culverts keep fish from swimming upstream
nearly all culverts were installed in conformance with
the fish-passage standard that was in place at the time
of construction, some of the older culverts do not meet
current standards during all stream flows. The Forest
Service has been investing about $2 million annually reconstructing
these old culverts, or removing them, to restore historic
fish access to their habitat. Approximately 165 culverts
have been replaced (as of the end of 2003) to improve
fish passage, meet the new fish pass standards, and address
this issue. With an annual budget of between $1.5 and
$2.0 million, the Forest Service plans to address approximately
50 sites each year.
While a significant number of culverts still do not meet
the very strict standards, the presence of salmon or steelhead
has been verified above 66 percent of salmon streams with
“barrier” culverts. Resident fish species have been verified
above 72 percent of the resident fish streams identified
with barrier culverts. Habitat surveys have found that
approximately 70 percent of the problem culverts identified
so far have less than ¼ mile of fish habitat upstream
of them. The 10-year average commercial salmon harvest,
attributed to production from the National Forests in
Alaska, is 162 million pounds and is valued at over $100
million. The Forest Plan maintains this valuable fishery
and does not jeopardize future stability of this important
most of the trees cut on the Tongass shipped to Asia unprocessed?
general, about 8% of the timber harvested on the Tongass
National Forest is Alaska yellow cedar. Most of the Alaska
yellow cedar is permitted for export after a export request
is approved by the Regional Forester. Virtually all of
the rest of the timber harvested on the Tongass is processed
in Southeast Alaska.
does the Forest Service keep selling timber, when there
isn’t any real demand for the wood?
economy of Southeast Alaska consists of tourism, fishing,
service industries, recreation, mining and timber. The
timber industry is an important leg that supports the
larger economy of the State and Southeast Alaska. The
Tongass National Forest Plan recognized the need to preserve
the biological heart of the forest while providing for
the inclusion of jobs on the human-side of the ecosystem
equation. Timber harvest is schedule over the next 100
years on approximately 4% of the land-base. Timbering
and providing pristine wild country to future generations
of Americans can and do co-exist on the Tongass National
Forest in Southeast Alaska.
timber industry is in a transition period since the pulp
mill contracts have been terminated and timber producers
are finding new markets for the lower grade logs. Mill
operators from the lower 48 are interested in opening
new manufacturing facilities in Southeast Alaska which
by itself speaks to market demand. The Wood Testing Research
Center in Ketchikan is concluding tests that positively
display that wood from the Tongass has high qualities
including breaking and stiffness strengths greater than
that of Douglas-fir. The industry is currently applying
for wood grades from the American Lumber Standards Committee
for Alaska yellow cedar, western hemlock and Sitka spruce.
Demand is expected to increase as the standards are approved
and implemented. The largest unknown for the timber industry
is environmental appeal and litigation of the environmental
analysis completed for future timber sales.
the Forest Service subsidizing the timber industry in SE
Alaska by losing $35 million dollars a year on the Tongass?
cost of compliance with various federal planning requirements
including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
plus the costs of responding to NEPA appeals and litigation
costs approximately $110 per thousand board feet.
cost of timber sale field preparation, appraisal, advertisement
and field sale administration costs approximately $36
per thousand board feet. The stumpage for the Forest Service
volume under contract averages of $41 per thousand board
a variety of reasons, profitability is a poor yardstick
for evaluating the performance of the national forest
timber sale program:
The national forests are not managed like a private
timber growing business. – As a matter of law and policy,
the national forest timber program is not managed like
a private timber growing business. Important differences
revolve around such things as the longer growing periods
(i.e., rotations) and higher stocking levels that are
commonly employed, the greater emphasis placed on natural
and uneven-aged management as opposed to plantation
and even-aged management, the greater emphasis placed
on the non-timber benefits obtainable from forest lands,
the greater emphasis placed on thoroughly analyzing
all the potential environmental effects of proposed
timber sale projects, and the more open administrative
processes and procedures that are employed – e.g., the
agency’s administrative appeals process. If we do not
want national forest managers to behave like private
forest managers, does it make sense to judge their performance
by the private sector’s main performance standard –
Timber sales are oftentimes the “least net cost” method
of achieving desired management objectives. – As noted
earlier, timber sales are increasingly being used mainly
as a tool for achieving various land management objectives,
other than fiber production, that require manipulating
the existing vegetation – e.g., improving forest health
and reducing the risk of catastrophic fire. While sales
of this type are frequently below-cost, the net cost
to the government of achieving such land stewardship
goals is oftentimes minimized when a timber sale is
used to attain the desired ends. This result is explained
by the fact that timber sales, unlike the other ways
of manipulating vegetation – e.g., prescribed burning,
use of chemical herbicides, and mechanical treatments
such as cut-&-leave – typically generate revenue
to help offset their implementation costs.
Timber sales provide many benefits beyond the revenues
earned. – Returns to the US Treasury are only one of
the benefits derived from national forest timber sales.
From an economic standpoint there are the job opportunities
that are created, the additional income that accrues
to individuals and businesses, the increment in tax
receipts that governments receive by virtue of taxing
this added income, the improved forest access that occurs
as a result of timber-related road construction and
reconstruction activities, and the legally required
receipt-share payments that go to benefit local schools
and roads. From an ecologic standpoint, there are the
various land stewardship objectives that are addressed
through timber harvesting – e.g., the improvements in
forest health, the reductions in the risk of catastrophic
fire, and the enhanced habitat conditions for wildlife.
As the economic account of TSPIRS has consistently shown,
to the extent that we can quantify them, the present
value of the long-term benefits associated with national
forest timber sales exceed the present value of the
There is no legal direction to earn a profit from the
sale of national forest timber. – The statutes under
which the national forests are managed do not mandate
that the agency make a profit from the sale of timber;
indeed, some key laws – e.g., the Multiple Use-Sustained
Yield Act of 1960, and the National Forest Management
Act of 1976 – contain language which explicitly suggests
or states that some management decisions should not
to be based on profit maximization considerations. However,
the Forest Service does have an obligation to use taxpayer
dollars as efficiently as possible. Even though the
national forest timber sale program operates at a financial
“loss”, this loss does not represent a subsidy of federal
logging always harm tourism and subsistence opportunities?
designed timber sales can be either neutral or actually
beneficial to both recreation and subsistence users. For
example, road-based recreation opportunities are nearly
non-existent in southeast Alaska, except where logging
has first built road systems. On Prince of Wales Island,
for example, improving and paving part of this road system
has greatly improved transportation amongst rural communities
while providing greater opportunities for people to enjoy
their national forest through road access. These road
systems often provide enhanced access for subsistence
users as well.
the Forest Service giving the “crown jewel” of national
forests to “timber barons” or “giant multi-national corporations”?
the sawmills currently operating in SE Alaska are community-based,
family owned, small businesses. Not only are these enterprises
vital parts of the economic life of southeast Alaska communities,
their owners and workers are an important part of the
social fabric of the area.
the Forest Service wasting money building roads to nowhere?
Alaska is located in the Alexander Archipelago, and consists
of numerous islands. All communities in Southeast Alaska
are not connected by roads to the outside world with the
exception of Haines and Skagway. The large majority of
roads that are located in towns of Southeast Alaska and
that connect villages on the same island were originally
constructed by the Forest Service for timber sale purposes.
Along with basic transportation uses, Forest roads are
used by recreationists, subsistence users, outfitters
and guides. Some of the roads constructed through Forest
Service timber sale contracts provide basic access to