The Center for Western Priorities has a great newsfeed, but sometimes you have to look past their anti-Interior bias. For example, this morning they posted this..
“Logging gets priority in Trump’s Interior Department” where they blended the wildfire carbon kerfuffle Matthew linked to here with an Alaska logging project.
CWP says “The Interior Department’s attempts to help the timber industry don’t stop there. Newly released documents show the administration has partnered with the state of Alaska and the timber industry there, paying $300,000 annually for five years so that industry can pick which trees should be cut in an upcoming sale in the Tongass National Forest.”
Oh, well. They linked to this WaPo story. Given the need to fit the Dominant WaPo Narrative, I thought the writers did a good job of explaining both sides and picking people to ask questions who are directly involved. I also think the old-timer, passing on skills angle is interesting- perhaps Alaskans on TSW can enlighten us more about this?
1. Earthjustice attorney doesn’t like industry picking trees.
2. State forester tries to place the Trump factor in context of the longer term decision making process and points out that FS staff are there in the units also.
3. Sitka Conservation Society understands need for industry to be involved, and also wants the public more involved in decisions.
Earthjustice staff attorney Tom Waldo said in an interview that federal experts — not the logging industry itself — should identify the trees, since they are charged with balancing the forest’s commercial appeal with protecting its overall health and the species within it. Earthjustice, which is challenging the sale on the grounds that the Forest Service has failed to fully inform the public about it, obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act and provided them to the Energy 202.
“Here they’re vesting a really lot of power in the hands of someone with a very specific interest in the timber,” Waldo said. “The very best trees for logging are also the best trees for wildlife habitat.”
But Alaska State Forester John “Chris” Maisch said in an email that the logging site was selected during the Obama administration, underwent extensive environmental review and any final decisions are made by government officials. The Forest Service staff lacks the expertise to pick the trees that are both commercially appealing and can be safely felled and lifted via helicopter, he said.
Industry foresters are working with Forest Service staff “in the units and are not doing this work independently.” Maisch said.
“It’s a team effort with experienced foresters passing this skill set to the next generation,” he said, adding that protections are put in place if trees with bird nests “or other sensitive habitat is identified.”
Andrew Thoms, executive director of the Sitka Conservation Society, said it is understandable that the Forest Service wants to tap the expertise of those in the private sector. “The only people who know how to pick out these trees are the old timers.”
But he added that it is crucial to involve the public in these decisions, especially since the most massive cedar and spruce trees in the Tongass stand the best chance of propagating their species. “You want them to put out seeds, because there’s a reason they’re a thousand years old.”