FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 9, 2016
ANCHORAGE, AK – Today, the US Forest Service (USFS) issued a Final Record of Decision for an amendment to the Tongass Land Management Plan (TLMP), marking the final step of a two-year process. The final decision does not deviate from the draft document other than technical corrections and clarifying aspects of the decision. The final Amended Plan schedules an overall decrease in old-growth clearcut logging over a 15-year time period, prohibits old-growth logging in conservation priority watersheds, and protects roadless areas. The Amended Plan also opens long-standing conservation areas to young-growth timber harvest, and neglects to address a declining Prince of Wales wolf population.
“This Amended Plan keeps momentum moving toward ending the long-outdated practice of old-growth clearcut logging on the Tongass,” said Susan Culliney, Audubon Alaska’s Policy Associate. “Cutting giant old trees in the remote and wild Tongass racks up economic, social, and environmental deficits. Instead, the government should invest in the Tongass’ sustainable forest resources, such as its unparalleled wild places, which support world-class economies in recreation, salmon, and tourism.”
In 2010, Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack instructed the USFS to transition the Tongass National Forest away from clearcut old-growth logging toward an ecologically, socially, and economically sustainable future. Audubon Alaska participated in the public process that grew out of this initiative, submitting comments on the Draft Amended Plan in early 2016, and filing specific objections to aspects of the final version this past August.
Fishing and tourism are local industries that offer a brighter and more balanced future for the Southeast region. Tongass wildlife—from bears to bald eagles—draws tourists from around the globe. According to Alaska’s Southeast Conference Report, tourism in Southeast Alaska “is growing at 4% per year for the foreseeable future.” A science-based Wildlife Conservation Strategy, embodied in the 2008 TLMP, imposes logging prohibitions and maintains connectivity in important salmon and wildlife habitat such as beach fringe buffers, riparian management areas, and old-growth reserves. The Amended Plan opens these same areas to limited timber harvest of second-growth forests.
“We remain concerned with the Amended Plan’s allowance of 10-acre clearcuts inside the previous Plan’s conservation areas,” said Melanie Smith, Audubon Alaska’s Director of Conservation Science. “However, the agency has indicated that such cuts will only occur insofar as they emulate natural disturbance regimes. Given that 10-acre gaps are vanishingly rare in nature, the agency should seldom implement cuts larger than a couple acres.”
The Final Amended Plan will take effect 30 days from today’s publication in the Federal Register and in the local newspaper of record. Audubon Alaska will continue to advocate for a rapid phase-out of clearcut logging of old-growth forests and draw on the best available science to inform Tongass land management decisions, including implementation of the Amended Plan announced today.
- Audubon Alaska August 2016 Formal Objection Letter on the Tongass Land Management Plan, Final Environmental Impact Statement, and Draft Record of Decision
- Audubon Alaska report “Prince of Wales Wolves: The Long-Term Impacts of Logging and Roads Push a Tongass Wolf Population toward Extinction”
- Audubon Alaska February 2016 Comments on the Tongass Land Management Plan Amendment Draft Environmental Impact Statement
Since 1977, Audubon Alaska's mission is to conserve the spectacular natural ecosystems of the state, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats, for the benefit and enjoyment of current and future generations. Audubon Alaska uses science to identify conservation priorities and support conservation actions and policies, with an emphasis on public lands and waters.
Now in its second century, the National Audubon Society is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in conservation. Audubon Alaska, a state office of the National Audubon Society, has worked to conserve birds in the state since 1977. www.AudubonAlaska.org