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

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of April 15

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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

Newly elected tribal leaders are sworn in during the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s 89th annual Tribal Assembly on Thursday at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. (Photo courtesy of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska)
New council leaders, citizen of year, emerging leader elected at 89th Tribal Assembly

Tlingit and Haida President Chalyee Éesh Richard Peterson elected unopposed to sixth two-year term.

A waterfront view of Marine Parking Garage with the windows of the Juneau Public Library visible on the top floor. “Welcome” signs in several languages greet ships on the dock pilings below. (Laurie Craig / For the Juneau Empire)
The story of the Marine Parking Garage: Saved by the library

After surviving lawsuit by Gold Rush-era persona, building is a modern landmark of art and function.

A troller plies the waters of Sitka Sound in 2023. (Photo by Max Graham)
Alaska Senate proposes $7.5 million aid package for struggling fish processors

The Alaska Senate has proposed a new aid package for the state’s… Continue reading

Current facilities operated by the private nonprofit Gastineau Human Services Corp. include a halfway house for just-released prisoners, a residential substance abuse treatment program and a 20-bed transitional living facility. (Gastineau Human Services Corp. photo)
Proposed 51-unit low-income, long-term housing project for people in recovery gets big boost from Assembly

Members vote 6-2 to declare intent to provide $2M in budget to help secure $9.5M more for project.

Members of the Alaska House of Representatives watch as votes are tallied on House Bill 50, the carbon storage legislation, on Wednesday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska House, seeking to boost oil and gas business, approves carbon storage bill

Story votes yes, Hannan votes no as governor-backed HB 50 sent to the state Senate for further work.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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

Most Read