Controversial timber sale can’t find a bidder

Juneau Empire file.

Juneau Empire file.

It seems nobody wants to buy timber on Kuiu Island.

After failing to sell the first time around, the controversial sale of a stand of old-growth trees on Kuiu Island, west of Petersburg, ended a second round of bidding Tuesday. Nobody made an offer as of the June 5 deadline, USFS’ Petersberg Office’s Ted Sandhofer confirmed with the Empire on Wednesday.

The Forest Service would have received at least $195,465.66 for the sale, the minimum bid in the second round. Preparing the sale cost much more.

Environmental groups, which have sued to stop the sale, say it’s further indication that the 523 acres of remote forest aren’t economically viable.

“Logging in Southeast Alaska is not a winning business proposition unless you have substantial subsidies from the Forest Service,” Southeast Alaska Conservation Council Executive Director Meredith Trainor said.

Forest managers spent at least $1 million preparing a National Environmental Policy Act review, said Petersburg Office timber staff Jorge Enriquez.

The NEPA review was the “big ticket item” in preparing the sale, said USFS spokesperson Paul Robbins, but that’s before scoping of the site, which had to be redone under the rules for a new comprehensive land management plan.

Enriquez said the office employed three foresters and a technician to do that work. The group mapped the Kuiu Island sale during 10-day trips by float plane to remote timber stand. The trips include per diem, housing and gas.

“It’s quite a big expense to do business out in the middle of nowhere,” Enriquez said.

Politicians have unfairly tasked the USFS with propping up the Southeast timber industry, Trainor said, which has fallen behind tourism and fishing as the economic driver in Southeast Alaska.

She referred to efforts by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to stall the implementation of 2016 amendements to the Tongass Land Management Plan, which added protections for salmon streams, and an ongoing attempt to repeal the Roadless Rule, which bars development on certain lands in the Tongass.

Murkowski’s moves were friendly to the largely mothballed Southeast timber industry, which has been in decline for decades. Couple political pressure with the USFS’ requirement to offer a certain amount of timber for sale, and Trainor said the agency is in the “hot seat”: It’s trying to fulfill unrealistic requirements to offer certain amounts of timber for sale.

“They’re trying to prove that they can get these sales out that prove positive and that they’re doing everything they can to make that happen,” Trainor said.

A Washington bidder did express interest in Kuiu Island, Enriquez said, and flew to Alaska to meet with forest managers. The person inquired how they could buy the timber stand over the counter, but their inquiry didn’t result in a bid.

Original bidding, from September 2016, was for about 30 million board feet on 866 acres, with a minimum bid going for $233,711. Amendements to the Tongass Plan forced the USFS to reduce the size of the sale, removing timber next to ecologically-sensitive watersheds.

This time around, 13.4 million board feet on 523 acres of land were offered for $195,465.

USFS spokesperson Paul Robbins said they plan on reoffering the Kuiu Island sale in July under similar terms.

Litigation over the sale is still in court.

More in News

The Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Encore docks in Juneau in October, 2022. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the Week of June 4

Here’s what to expect this week.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Thursday, June 8

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Rear Adm. Megan M. Dean (center) awaits her entrance during a change-of-command Friday in Juneau where she was sworn as the new command of U.S. Coast Guard District 17 at the Alaska Army National Guard Aviation Operating Facility in Juneau. Standing behind to her left is Vice Adm. Andrew J. Tiongson and to her right is outgoing Rear Adm. Nathan A. Moore. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Coast Guard’s Alaska district under new command

Incoming Rear Adm. Megan M. Dean says she is excited about working with the people of Alaska.

A harbor seal pokes its head up near Low Island in Sitka Sound on June 1. The area was the site of a fatal charter boat accident May 28. (James Poulson/The Daily Sitka Sentinel via AP)
Body of captain recovered 11 days after five die in Sitka boat sinking

Authorities have recovered the body of the captain of a fishing charter… Continue reading

From left to right, U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, sit side by side during a U.S. Coast Guard event in Juneau on Friday. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Alaska delegation differs on Trump indictment

Murkowski, Sullivan say matter is serious, but clash on merit; Peltola says she trusts process.

A Chinook salmon is seen in an undated photo. (Photo by Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)
Washington-based group wants Endangered Species Act protections for Alaska king salmon

By Nathaniel Herz, Alaska Beacon A Washington-based conservation group whose actions have… Continue reading

Annie Bartholomew plays a song from her upcoming debut album “Sisters of White Chapel” on a clawhammer banjo on a bench at Mayor Bill Overstreet Park on Thursday. The longtime local folk musician said she learned the instrument specifically for the project, and both the character of the instrument and women who played it during the Klondike Gold Rush helped inspire the mostly original songs she performs on the album. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Musical revelations of the Klondike’s ‘White Chapel’

Annie Bartholomew’s new album shares surprising untold stories of sex workers during the gold rush

The author’s wife hikes down the ridge of a still snow-covered mountain. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)
I Went to the Woods: The summer bod

It’s summer bod time. Not in a show it off at the… Continue reading

Former President Donald Trump listens as he speaks with reporters while in flight on his plane after a campaign rally at Waco Regional Airport, in Waco, Texas, on March 25 while en route to West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
Trump charged over classified documents in 1st federal indictment of an ex-president

MIAMI — Donald Trump said Thursday that he was indicted for mishandling… Continue reading

Most Read