The Tongass National Forest is being managed under a 2016 amendment to its 2008 forest plan that addresses the Forest’s transition away from old-growth timber harvesting. The amendment accelerated the transition in the plan from 32 years to 16 years, but there has been continuing controversy over how long that process should take. Here’s the latest in an extended article from E&E News:
A new complication in the debate over the young-growth transition comes from Catherine Mater, a forest products engineer from Oregon who recently completed an inventory of 43 areas within the Tongass under a contract with the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station. There’s enough young growth coming online to provide around 55 million board feet of timber annually for decades, she said, or more than double the total timber volume the service reported cut there in fiscal 2018. Mater found 138,760 acres of young growth — between 55 and 80 years old — suitable for harvest. All of it was within 800 feet of Forest Service roads and away from steep slopes and other environmentally sensitive areas.
Of course there’s still pushback from the “timber companies and industry-friendly politicians, who want more thinning and bigger clear cuts.”
What caught my attention though was these comments from the Tongass spokeswoman:
Forest Service managers stand by their estimates that the young-growth transition won’t be complete before 2033, Fenster said. “If, once the analysis is complete, it shows the projections in the forest plan were not valid, then the Forest Service would have to consider alternatives to incorporating new information into the forest plan estimates,” Fenster said.
The projected volume of young growth was a fundamental assumption in the 2016 amendment, so I don’t think the Forest has the option of ignoring how it could affect the decisions it made in the forest plan.