The Tongass National Forest sign stands near the Auke Village Recreation Area. (Juneau Empire File)

The Tongass National Forest sign stands near the Auke Village Recreation Area. (Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Trout Unlimited’s assertions on Tongass are wrong

Assertions that 66% of the “largest and best stands” have been cut is absurd.

  • By Bert Burkhart
  • Friday, December 6, 2019 7:00am
  • Opinion

The Nov. 21 My Turn by the Trout Unlimited Alaska Director of Law and Policy made many allegations, all of which were wrong.

Trout Unlimited (TU) claims logging threatens fish and wildlife, but fish populations in the areas that were logged have more than doubled since the logging commenced in the 1950s. Further, Alaska Department of Fish and Game hunter harvest data indicates that the logged areas are also sustaining deer harvests that are at or above the levels in other areas of the forest. Many of these areas have been supporting high levels of deer harvest for over 50-years.

The TU assertions that 66% of the “largest and best stands” have been cut is absurd. Less than 8% of the commercial timber on the national forest has been harvested, and those stands are already supporting thriving stands of young-growth timber. Likewise, the TU assertion that a third of all stream crossings block salmon migration is a blatant lie. All of the fish stream culverts and bridges on the national forest were properly installed and when the stream crossing standards were revised, the Forest Service began upgrading those existing stream crossing structures to comply with the new standards, even though the original standard was allowing fish passage.

TU also asserts that the timber industry survives on massive taxpayer subsidies. Again, that is a false assertion, the industry does not receive subsidies. The timber industry pays the market price for federal timber sales. Blaming the timber industry for the high cost of preparing federal timber sales is unfair, particularly when more than 40% of the timber sales volume prepared by the Forest Service is never even offered for sale due to appeals, litigation and changing federal policies.

TU closes its misinformation piece by stating that the “roadless areas are some of the best and most valuable lands on the Tongass.” That’s a shamefully deceptive assertion given that the national environmental groups have long ago asserted other acres were the “best and most valuable lands” and successfully lobbied Congress to designate those acres as Wilderness, National Monuments and LUD-II areas.

TU doesn’t seem to understand that fishing, tourism, mining, logging, subsistence gathering, recreation and other uses of the forest are not mutually exclusive. The growth of tourism is a great addition to our communities and that industry has not been limited by timber harvesting and manufacturing activities. The access provided by logging roads has opened many areas of the forest for recreation as well as commerce and community development. The national forests are meant to be managed for multiple uses, not solely as a playground for Trout Unlimited.

• Bert Burkhart is president of the Alaska Forest Association. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.

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