FAIRBANKS (AP) -- After seven years and almost 50 public meetings, the commissioner of the state Department of Natural Resources has signed off on a new Tanana Valley State Forest management plan, the first complete rewrite since the original plan came out in 1988.
The 1.8-million acre forest extends 265 miles from near the Canada border to Manley Hot Springs. Under state law, it is managed for multiple use, including timber, recreation and wildlife habitat.
The new management plan contains a dramatic spike in the maximum timber harvest allowed. But the timber harvest now is far below maximum levels and foresters do not expect a surge in logging.
The maximum timber harvest under the old plan was based on economic factors and largely ignored hardwoods such as aspen and birch that do not have a defined market.
The new plan focuses on how much timber harvest would be sustainable for forest health, according to the department. An inventory of hardwoods is included for potential harvest, in addition to the white spruce that constitutes most of the current timber plan.
The department has received inquiries in recent years from people interested in harvesting hardwoods. The new plan, according to the department, could let that to happen.
Some members of the public who commented on the forest plan wondered whether the department was including hardwoods with knowledge of some large-scale mill in the works. State forestry officials said they knew of no such project on the horizon.
Annual timber harvest currently averages less than 1,000 acres.
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