Roundtable in Juneau

Here’s a link to a story on the Juneau roundtable.

Community leaders given a chance to comment on forest planning Tuesday during a regional roundtable in Juneau said they want more control over decisions made on public lands surrounding their towns.

The inability of the U.S. Forest Service to get projects through its system, or even make a plan to change the system, is hurting Alaska’s rural communities that depend on the forest for livelihoods and sustenance, roundtable attendees said.

“The Forest Service has an obligation to see that it helps keep local communities alive,” Petersburg Community Development Director Leo Luczak said, adding that timber revenues have fallen to such lows that “communities are dying.”

7 thoughts on “Roundtable in Juneau”

  1. In response to Mr. Luczak, I must ask “Why does the Forest Service have an obligation to keep local communities alive?” I cannot find any such mandate in any law.

    The timber industry dried up in SE Alaska when the major pulp mills found it no longer profitable (even with massive taxpayer subsidies) to operate in the world market. Nor can Alaska compete in the lumber, plywood, particleboard, or other wood products markets. Its labor costs are too high; its transportation costs are too high; its trees grow too slowly.

  2. Even if the Forest Service had an “obligation to keep local communities alive”, which it does not (at least Andy and I do not believe it does), these words from Paul Hirt’s (1994) A Conspiracy of Optimism: Management of the National Forests since World War Two ring true:

    Political support for corporate welfare economics appears to be in decline since the federal budget deficit ballooned out of control in the 1980s and since America, for the first time in over one hundred years, has become a major debtor nation. Losing money while destroying national forest ecosystems in this economic climate seems increasingly irrational.

    Of course we have to make an exception for banking, at least for now, but corporate welfare for timber companies is not in the political field of vision. Besides, if we’ve learned nothing else in the last 30 years, we have learned that you can’t save jobs by cutting timber. Capital intensive milling and manufacturing destroyed jobs much faster than did declines in national forest timbering.

    But Hirt’s argument about “destroying forest ecosystems” is the more telling. The Forest Service is still under the gun to prove up on its active management practices — whether they be in the realm of timber, fire, grazing, mining recreation, etc. — to ensure that they are not contributing to the destruction of the Earth’s life-support systems. Long live NEPA (the law, not the silly NEPA shows that the Forest Service continues to deliver).

  3. You know I think it’s interesting that we found out today it’s important for feds to keep local communities alive if they are in Florida and working on space issues; just sayin’.

  4. Sharon –

    Federal aid is always of new-found importance to communities at risk. I find it interesting that communities that routinely bash the federal government are usually the first in line to seek “community stability” handouts from the very government they will be once-again bashing when times get a wee bit better.

  5. I think if your county is 97% national forest, you are in a different position than an entirely private county. Your relationship with that land is fundamental to your people’s survival. I think any owners of large blocks of land owe something to the local inhabitants. If it was an oil company who had bought land in another country, we would think they owed something to the inhabitants to provide jobs for locals and to give them a special voice in the management of the land.

  6. There are “special relationships” built into law and culture for aboriginal inhabitants of a place. For all others, unless “claims” are inbuilt into legislative mandates, the obligations are similar to obligations to citizens elsewhere. We need public engagement, and local communities (“of place” and “of interest”) deserve a place at the table. But local needs, wants, concerns have to be deliberated alongside broader needs, wants, concerns. The roundtables need to be “bigger”, much more engagement needs be done via the internet.

    We are no longer living in a “frontier world”. Needs, wants, and concerns are increasingly shared much more broadly than in times past.

  7. Dave- I think this topic deserves more attention and is related to the question of “why place-based bills?” I am doing some research and plan to post on this when we finish our series of roundtables.


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