Prince of Wales Island timber sale given the OK

Posted: Sunday, August 31, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) Despite heavy opposition from environmentalists, the Forest Service decided to allow a timber sale on Prince of Wales Island to go forward.

The 1,225-acre sale, called Cholmondeley, is in a roadless area of the Tongass National Forest. Some 21 miles of logging road would be carved into the forest so that loggers can access the trees.

The sale, which can now go to bid at any time, would yield nearly 30 million board feet of timber and at least 100 jobs in a remote part of Southeast Alaska, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

''It's good that they're going to get on with the timber sale,'' said Owen Graham, who heads the Alaska Forest Association, a timber industry trade group. The industry Graham represents has shrunk dramatically in recent years as a result of markets, politics and lawsuits.

With Friday's announcement, the Forest Service formally rejected administrative appeals by the Forest Conservation Council, the Sierra Club's Juneau chapter, Earthjustice, the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council and the Sitka Conservation Council.

Ray F. Massey, a Forest Service spokesman, said agency scientists took a hard look at the environmentalists' concerns but in the end felt they weren't justified.

''They were considered and dismissed,'' Massey said.

The groups raised a variety of concerns over how the logging would affect wildlife, drinking water quality, regeneration of cedar trees and even whether the timber harvesting makes economic sense. Nearly half of the timber would be yellow and red cedar, much of it for export, said Robin Dale, a Forest Service appeal coordinator.

Much of the old-growth timber on Prince of Wales Island, near Ketchikan, has been logged since the 1950s. From the air, the island appears like a patchwork of clear-cuts and virgin forest.

Logging the Cholmondeley area will further degrade an already fragmented wildlife habitat, putting pressure on species such as Sitka black-tailed deer, Queen Charlotte goshawks, wolves and marten, environmentalists argued in their appeals.

''It's one of the last unlogged drainages in eastern Prince of Wales,'' said Aurah Landau, with the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. ''That's why it's so important to have it as a corridor for the movement of animals north to south on the island.''

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