Avoiding Old Growth in Alaska- Sealaska and Forest Service

Image courtesy of Sealaska Corporation.

Here are two stories about Alaska, thanks to Forest Business Network.

First, this piece by Catherine Mater in the Juneau Empire, in which she talks about young growth and becoming “Siuslaw-like”.

From this piece from KTOO, Sealaska is going to sell carbon credits instead of/in addition to logs from its land in Alaska.

Alaska was invited to participate in the California cap-and-trade market in 2015 after lobbying from the Chugach Alaska Corporation. Chugach is also working on developing its own carbon offset credits. (Creative Commons photo by Xa’at)

Big greenhouse gas emitters in California are now able to buy carbon offset credits based in Alaska. The Southeast regional Native corporation Sealaska is using some of its lands for carbon sequestration. Thousands of acres of old growth trees will stay intact for over 100 years. It’s the first carbon bank in the state to be approved for the market.

Sealaska says its another way of securing a future for shareholders.

The corporation is expected to make money for its shareholders. But it’s already cut close to a third of its trees, and not all of the sites left are ideal for logging, like old growth stands next to salmon streams.

So, Mallott says the corporation faced a challenge. How do you protect those sensitive areas and still make money for shareholders?

“It was really the need to stretch our harvest and diminish our harvest from a higher level that put us in this framework thinking, ‘OK, what really is sustainability for Sealaska?” Mallott said.

Enter the California cap-and-trade program.

Basically, big polluters in the Golden State receive an allowance to release a planned amount of carbon each year. To account for each metric ton of carbon, companies can use that allowance or buy carbon offset credits. Those credits represent an actual, tangible thing: carbon stored in trees — in this case, trees belonging to Sealaska.

Mallott says carbon sequestration looked like the right opportunity. The money generated would help shareholders and nearly half of the trees on Sealaska land could stay in the ground.

He’s quick to point out this land isn’t locked up. The corporation can can still develop parcels for tourism or mineral exploration.

He says the project has already attracted a buyer. It’s too early to put a dollar figure on the deal. But he thinks the amount could be huge.

“Multiple millions,” Mallott said. “The financial benefit of this is very significant for Sealaska.”

In the past, conservation groups have been critical of the rate Sealaska has clear cut its forests.

Buck Lindekugel is a grass roots attorney for the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, and he says that old model of logging doesn’t make sense for the region’s economy today. He welcomes the corporation’s new venture.

“We’re excited that Sealaska is seizing this opportunity to explore those options,” Lindekugel said. “We think it’s good for their shareholders, and it’s certainly good for all of us who care about the forest.”

But Mallott says Sealaska has always cared about sustainability and the bottom line.

“The carbon project. Is it a shift? It’s a recognition in the way we’ve always thought,” Mallott said.

He says the corporation isn’t going to stop logging on its remaining land. But it’s also planning to allocate more acreage to carbon sequestration in the near future.

As for what happens to the trees after the 110 years is up, Mallott says that’s up to a younger generation to decide.

12 thoughts on “Avoiding Old Growth in Alaska- Sealaska and Forest Service”

    • First, if you lived here, you would realize the decades of carnage by the regional Native Corporation known as Sealaska will not be undone by carbon credit scamming. If you lived here you would have all the information and personal experience you needed to understand the role Sealaska Timber Inc. has played as the quintessential destroyer of cultural (Tlingit) heritage.

      Sealaska’s indiscriminate clearcutting and raw log export began with the highest biological value stands first — those which were once ancestral forests surrounding Native villages. These were reduced to wastelands incapable of supporting subsistence needs for villagers and the cultural and traditional practices central to what it means to be Native.

      What remains consists of far lesser biological value stands with little to no capacity to serve as corporate tree plantations.

      Second, this is not the sort of “awakening” to the “Reality” of carbon credits that deserves kudos, especially when the Southeast Alaska CONservation Council is being funded to greenwash carbon credits as a CONservation strategy, in classic collaboration with billionaires practicing “charity” . A good overview of turning stored carbon into speculator’s derivatives trading instruments ( yep, the same kind that Wall Street used to crash our financial system in ’07-’08) can be found in several scholarly critiques, one already posted by Matthew:

      then check out
      The Forest Mafia: How Scammers Steal Millions Through Carbon Markets
      “When the product is invisible, the cons are endless.”
      (there are far too many other expose’s to list here)

      Third, carbon credits utterly fail as a meaningful approach to what MUST urgently be done to reverse course on triggering unstoppable feedbacks resulting in “irreversible, catastrophic,” anthropogenic climate chaos. Instead, they were designed as feel-good Public Relations cons to create the false impression that we can maintain business as usual; but more importantly, to provide fantastic opportunities for commodities markets speculators managing billionaire portfolios such as the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The Moores also happen to fund SEACC, TU, The Nature CONservancy, and CONservation International — all, champions of Carbon Scamming.

      In that respect carbon credits, like the open lie of “carbon neutral” biomass which SEACC also endorses as a legitimate “renewable energy” provide fodder for unscrupulous, sellout, (small “e”) eNGOs like (SEACC) The Nature Conservancy, The Wilderness Society, Trout Unlimited, Natural Resource Defense Council, and others.

      SEACC, was captured back in 2006 when it joined the well-funded ranks of the eNGO collaborationists at the Tongass Futures Roundtable, which intended to settle remaining land entitlements. Later, SEACC greenwashed Senator Lisa Murkowski’s Sealaska legislation enabling it to be bundled in an Omnibus Land CONservation bill slipped into a must-pass Appropriations bill allowing the most notorious and largest private land mis-manager to high-grade their cut-over lands for the most at-risk, and biologically valuable remaining old growth of our public National Forest Lands of the central and southern Tongass.

      I’m not sure how “Reality may be awakening” , but I am sure the reality of Anthropogenic climate chaos is already here and SEACC et al have been reduced to shameless CON artists who would have us believe the scams of their funders.

      • David- it seems that not being fans of carbon trading is something that we all agree on. I wouldn’t presume to know anything about Alaska- I just posted pieces from two Alaska papers.

        • My reply was to Mr. Baumann, Sharon.
          Just sayin’ his “Kudos to Sealaska” can only be logically explained by an apparent complete ignorance of Sealaska’s history of shameless rapacity locking in generations of misery to thousands of Tlingit shareholders. And now the shameless eNGO collaborationists hawking carbon trading as a conservation victory? Lets get real here.

          The nearby Native village of Kake on Kupreanof Island, is but one example of Sealaska’s rapacity. When Sealaska Inc. and Kake Tribal Corp finished their State of Alaska approved logging, the town’s primary salmon source, Gunnuk Creek, was rendered incapable of supporting the historic wild runs of chum, pink, and coho salmon. So a hatchery was established.

          Since there was nothing left to log, the town’s only remaining major source of employment was fish processing and value-added products. Then, their hatchery operation failed too, after accruing over $20 million in debt to the state. The water temperature of Gunnuk Creek was too cold in the winter, and too hot in the summer to support even the hatchery operation.


          It will take several generations before any logging jobs, or previous deer carrying capacity to return, and the scale of destruction of salmon habitat pretty much precludes any hope of restoring former wild runs.

          So, “Kudos to Sealaska” for “awakening” to the “reality” of carbon scamming?!
          I don’t think so.

  1. There are several aspects to this development that show that climate science is ignored in carbon/pollution trading schemes. First, the lack of naming the “polluters” in California in this article is misleading — the polluters in question are for the most part the fossil fuel sector, in particular the petroleum refining sector. The conflation between fossil carbon and biocarbon is dangerous, to say the least. To suggest at all that forest carbon stored (maybe) for 110 years in any way neutralizes the emissions from burning fossil fuels is simply scientifically flawed. But the concept remains popular because it is a comforting myth, and there is money in it. The fact is that forest offsets are based on erroneous assumptions regarding global carbon cycles. California cap-and-trade is at its essence all about the fossil fuel industry pretending to do something about climate change while continuing with business as usual, and the entire program is permeated by environmental racism and dubious science.

    Whether they know it or not Sealaska and other proponents of this scheme are perpetuating the environmental injustice that is inherent in the California pollution trading scheme.

    Note that there is no mention in this article of how much crude oil from the Alaskan Arctic is refined in California and thus covered by Cap-and-Trade. What are the thoughts on eventually having Sealaska sell carbon credits to “offset” the refining of crude extracted from the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge that would flow to California refineries and thus be covered by the carbon market? Does anyone really think that carbon sequestered by young trees is equal to that being extracted and burned from carbon stocks that have been stable for millions of years? Protecting old growth forests to protect those stable and resilient carbon reservoirs is an imperative. Carbon sequestration in land based ecosystems like forests is however largely directly related to past deforestation and land use change. The forest is trying to pay back the carbon debt from the emissions from degradation and deforestation. It in no way compensates for ongoing burning of fossil fuels.


    • Gary, I don’t think you are accurate in making the claim “climate science is ignored in carbon/pollution trading schemes”. You can disagree with the idea (I don’t like trading schemes either for a variety of pragmatic reasons) but plenty of climate scientists, and groups of scientists, have been on board with the idea of offsets as part of carbon reduction.

      You will have to be more clear about why you think there is “environmental racism” and “dubious science” involved.

  2. When I used to follow cap-and-trade issues, there was substantial skepticism surrounding both sides of the deal. Given Gary Hughes comment above, it looks like the skepticism continues. People wonder whether poor communities would be harmed—environmental justice—on the “pollution offsets” side of the deal, but also whether industrial concerns would attempt to game the system on the “carbon sequestration” side of the deal as well. Here is one quote re: the latter concern: (https://grist.org/article/timber-industry-rent-seeking/ )

    Critics of using forests as carbon sinks cite the difficulty with verifying and tracking carbon offsets and the potential for wildfires, which would not only lose the stored carbon but release large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In addition, paying U.S. companies not to cut forests to sequester carbon could simply transfer demand for timber overseas, leading to increased deforestation in tropical regions.

    One pressing question if this deal were struck: Who will be monitoring this situation for the next hundred years and more?

    • You need to pay folks and institutions through time to monitor and check, and figure out if farmer x’s offset is really land that he wouldn’t otherwise farm in reality , and so on. That’s why I don’t like the schemes.

      But as long as our demand for lumber does not go down, any force that reduces harvest (including people that don’t want trees cut on federal land, and big fires) will be transferring demand for lumber overseas. I’m not up on import/exports but last I looked we were getting most of ours from Canada and other non-tropical countries. Not sure that this is a good argument re: offsets.

      • Who, specifically, needs to pay? And how is such pay to be determined? All are technical details in a very convoluted legal scheme. I too continue to advocate for simpler carbon taxes.

        • According to the US EPA, US GHG emissions have declined since a peak in 2007, in large part due to the use of more natural gas and less coal. Emissions also are declining in the UK, Germany, and a few other nations. Assuming that these trends continue and that other nations reduce emissions over the next few decades, how valuable will forest carbon credits be in 2070, about the halfway point of typical 100-year carbon credit contracts?


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