I retired at the end of March after 28 years as a research social scientist with the USDA Forest Service. Over the course of my public service with the Forest Service, I worked directly with communities to build relationships and encourage civic engagement and collaboration to reduce fire risk in Washington and Oregon, publicize health benefits of spending time in nature and facilitate climate change mitigation and adaptation in coastal Alaska.
The focus across my entire career was to build positive, productive relationships and engage communities in shared research and management efforts in support of our national forests.
Unfortunately, the Alaska Region of the Forest Service is backtracking on agreements for management of the Tongass National Forest. A management plan for the Tongass, developed through an extensive public engagement and comment process, is being scrapped. Community leaders trusted the agency to follow through with the management plan developed through a collaborative effort that engaged all interests.
By reopening the planning process and threatening once again to remove the Tongass from inclusion under the Roadless Rule, the agency is betraying the many partners who participated in extensive past planning efforts. I hate to see the agency discard and disregard the agreements that so many have contributed to implementing.
Why should people trust the agency if this is the way they choose to proceed?
As several others have commented, continuing to pursue large timber sales on the Tongass National Forest makes no sense economically, socially or environmentally. The intact forest is far more valuable than the forest products that could be harvested. Logging results in a loss to the U.S. taxpayer.
Studies have estimated that taxpayers subsidize the Tongass timber program in excess of $20 million per year, or about $130,000 per timber job and despite all the tax dollars spent propping up the industry, the timber industry currently contributes less than 1 percent to local economies.
I hope sound minds prevail, outcomes of past public engagement are respected and the inclusion of the Tongass under the Roadless Rule is maintained.
• Linda Kruger retired in March after 28 years as a research social scientist for the USDA Forest Service working for the PNW Research Station in Seattle 1991-2003 and at the Juneau Forestry Sciences Lab from 2003-2019. She served the State of Alaska, Department of Natural Resources as a park ranger and Southeast regional manager for Alaska State Parks and Outdoor Recreation from 1976-1989.