Southeast is working to establish a sustainable and renewable timber industry in Southeast Alaska through collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service, the State of Alaska, private land owners and Alaska Native organizations to reinstate the responsibility of establishing a predictable and reliable timber supply sufficient to sustain the region’s timber economy and communities.We support an alternative method of managing the lands in Southeast Alaska. State lands, private lands and federal lands can be managed as one living organism using the approach that the forest can maintain a good economy for our communities, a healthy environment for wildlife and the rich cultural and social environment; allowing everyone to have their traditional lifestyle.
The Tongass National Forest covers nearly 17 million acres and is the nation's largest national forest. More important for the Southeast Conference and its members, the Tongass locks up about 80% of the land area in Southeast Alaska. The dearth of private land in Southeast Alaska makes proper multiple use management of the Tongass essential to the health and survival of Southeast communities. We simply have no choice but to rely on the Tongass for such basic things as employment opportunities, a place to recreate, and a source of hunting, fishing and gathering for both sport and subsistence purposes. The Southeast Conference and its members believe the Tongass National Forest can be a productive and healthy source of quality habitat for fish and wildlife, including deer and wolves, clean air and water, recreational and subsistence opportunities for those who enjoy all that forests have to offer, a sustainable supply of mineral and lumber products for this and future generations, and a renewable supply of hydroelectric power that generates energy without producing greenhouse gases.
Between 2012 & 2013, timber-related employment in Southeast Alaska continued its long decline, falling another two percent to 325 jobs. Timber workforce earnings remain flat at $17 million in wages. Once the economic backbone of the region; Southeast Alaska lost 3,500 direct industry jobs and over $100 million in annual payroll in the 1990s. Over the last decade, timber employment has shrunk by another 89% and in 2013, timber accounted for less than one percent of jobs and wages in the region Despite pioneering markets in young-growth products, the industry relies on old-growth timber as the backbone of both local milling and log export programs until young growth stands mature and product development can compete internationally. Although a Tongass transition effort is underway, it will take twenty to thirty years for young-growth development to become economically viable. Meanwhile, pending litigation is affecting further development in the Tongass.
We have designed an alternative management strategy that proposes to manage the Tongass National Forest more effectively by using the triple bottom line belief system; A Healthy Environment that supports a Robust Economy that in turn perpetuates a Strong Social/Community structure. Investments in forest land or wood processing facilities are now required to demonstrate that the forest land management program associated with a proposed investment is biologically, socially and financially sustainable (“Triple Bottom Line” strategy). Demonstrating sustainability requires advanced computer software capable of integrating numerous complex land management objectives while providing transparent, reliable and practical solutions. We believe our alternative management strategy is the solution for stable resource development as well as conservation and habitat uses in the Tongass.