On April 6, the Empire posted a My Turn opinion by The Boat Company. That posting contained a lot of erroneous information.
First, the timber industry in Alaska is not subsidized by either the state or the federal government. The federal government often spends more on its environmental impact statements than it receives in stumpage from timber companies, but that is not a subsidy to the timber industry. The industry receives no benefit from those environmental impact statements and the industry pays competitive prices for what little timber is made available. The state of Alaska funds its timber sale program from timber stumpage receipts and returns excess receipts to the State.
Second, the logging does not cause adverse impacts to salmon habitat. In fact, the fish populations have doubled in Southeast Alaska since the industry started, particularly in the most heavily logged watersheds. Wildlife populations are also doing well and our logging roads provide access for many hunters, fishermen and other recreationists.
Third, the decline in the timber industry is not due to markets, high operating costs or past high-grading. The decline is due solely to a reduction in the amount of timber available to harvest. The Boat Company should do a little fact checking:
• Wood products markets are much higher today than in the past. Pulp prices for instance have risen from $650 per ton in 1997 to over $900 per ton today. Similarly, while lumber prices are cyclical, they continue to trend upwards and are much higher today than in most past years.
• There is an abundance of suitable timber remaining in Southeast Alaska; only 462,000 acres (8 percent) of the 5,600,000 acres of commercial timber on the Tongass has ever been harvested.
• The high cost of harvesting federal timber is a result of poor timber sale designs. The state is more effective at designing economic timber sales and as a result, the state timber sale program is profitable for both the state and the industry.
I agree that fishing and tourism are good industries for Southeast Alaska and I know that we can have responsible development, including timber harvesting and manufacturing, without detracting from fishing, tourism or any other industry.
Alaska Forest Association