Legislature(2011 - 2012)BUTROVICH 205
02/19/2011 10:00 AM RESOURCES
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SB 44-SOUTHEAST STATE FOREST CO-CHAIR WAGONER announced the consideration of SB 44. 12:07:14 PM WADE ZAMMIT, President and CEO, Sealaska Timber Corporation, testified in support of SB 44 on behalf of Ron Wolfe. He said that there is an expected decline in the population of Southeast Alaska and this is mirrored in the health of the timber industry. He explained that Sealaska believes that the timber industry is essential to the economy of Southeast Alaska. Currently, a vast majority of the Southeast region is owned by the federal government; with 87 percent of the area set aside as parks, wildernesses, national monuments and other classifications that preclude development. Development that occurs on the remaining land must achieve resource protection through various federal regulatory compliances. SB 44 will help stabilize the timber from state lands and allow state forests to be managed in a sustainable fashion. These lands will be managed in accordance with the Alaska Forest Resources and Practices Act, which has demonstrated to be working well to protect water quality, anadromous fish habitats, and wildlife. He noted that his testimony has also been submitted to the committee for full disclosure. 12:10:03 PM JEREMY MAXAND, representing himself, commented on SB 44. He expressed concern that the vast majority of timber harvested from the Wrangell Island would be round log exported to the lower 48 or another country for value-added processing. He said that he wants to see the trees in the state forest directly benefit the communities they were taken from and are impacting. Currently, by using the forest within a multi-use category the community benefits from forest recreation and habitat. However, if these forests transfer to state forests and are immediately shipped out of the state there will be no incentive for Wrangell to revitalize their timber economy for long term usage. He said that he hopes SB 44, as it moves forward, will contain some very strong language which would create incentives to keep the logs in Alaska to be processed and used locally. CO-CHAIR WAGONER asked if there is any effort in the community to start a business which could use the timber instead of exporting it. MR. MAXAND replied that there is a ten-year proposed Tongass sale that the community of Wrangell is looking into. He said that they are concerned these trees will be cut down too fast. Wrangell has a unique opportunity because there is mill site in existence and, with the logs on the island, could be sustained for a long time. However, if the incentive is to have a large company come in, cut the trees down, and ship the logs out, then that is what will happen. He asked what the state is doing to help communities have a sustainable timber operation. He noted that the community would love to help and support legislation focused on that issue. 12:14:46 PM CARL PORTMAN, Deputy Director, Resource Development Council (RDC), testified in support of SB 44. He explained that expanding the forest would help sustain the forest products industry, save jobs, and help the economy. The state land identified for inclusion into the new state forest has been consistently managed for timber harvesting. Designation of these forests would ensure that they would remain in state ownership and support the forest products industry long-term in Southeast Alaska. He noted that a majority of timber in Southeast Alaska is on federal land; however federal timber sales have sharply declined. Much of the new state forest contains young second- growth stands and there is broad support for shifting timber harvesting in Southeast Alaska from old growth to second growth. The new state forest and proposed additional partials will help provide a sustainable timber supply to local mills and accelerate the transition to second-growth timber. He noted that 95 percent of the Tongass National Forest is closed to logging. The Tongass itself comprises about 94 percent of the land base in Southeast Alaska. He explained that as a result land management in Southeast Alaska is weighted towards conservation and non-development uses. Under the current Tongass Land Management plan the annual harvest ceiling has been reduced from 527 million board feet to 267 million. He noted that only 30 million board feet of timber has been harvested annually in recent years, which is less than 15 percent of the allowable cut. He explained that in regards to state land the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages over 159,000 acres of uplands in southern Southeast Alaska. Of this land, approximately one-third would be in the state forest if SB 44 is enacted. He noted that the remaining land is designated to other uses such as recreation, water sources, and land sales. 12:19:06 PM OWEN GRAHAM, Secretary, Alaska Forest Association, testified in support of SB 44. He said that thus far Ketchikan has lost 85 percent of their employment in the timber industry, due to a lack of timber supply. This piece of legislation will help with this and they encourage any additions to the timber sales program in the future. He noted that the association encourages local manufacture and the best way to do so is by having enough timber supply to sustain the mills. Most of the wood that the state has sold in the last five years has been domestically processed. However, he explained that the state needs to hang on to log exports as a tool to manage their programs if the local or domestic market is not doing well. 12:21:49 PM ELAINE PRICE, Project Manager, City Council, testified in support of SB 44. She said that part of the state forest expansion would be in Coffman Cove and will provide a sustainable base for timber management. She agreed with Mr. Maxand that these forests should be locally beneficial by being manufactured locally. Because of the way the Tongass National Forest is currently being managed it is not dependable and every timber sale has a law suit filed against it. She noted that the Viking Mill currently employs 45 people directly in Klawock and is a huge economic benefit to Prince of Wales Island as a whole. 12:23:43 PM MIKE SALLEE, Owner and operator of a small saw mill, testified in opposition of SB 44. He said one of the parcels proposed in this bill is North Gravina which lies adjacent to his family's homestead. He explained that the logging of Mental Health Trust Land on other parts of Gravina has trashed numerous areas and severely limits passage through them. He said that converting parcels to state forest in order to realize the return on future investments in thinning is not justified. The amount of previously logged lands in the North Gravina parcel consists of a very few steeply sloped areas in one small corner of the parcel. He noted that another distressing aspect of SB 44 is the contingent practice of round-log export. He explained that as a mill operator he gets numerous requests for yellow cedar and he finds it egregious that Alaska "allows the continued bleeding away of wood-processing jobs with round log exports." He said that SB 44, in its current form, primarily benefits a few large scale timber operators. 12:27:01 PM PAUL MCINTOSH, representing himself, testified in support of SB 44. He explained that he lived in Southeast Alaska from 1978 to 2001 and witnessed the closure of the pulp mills in Sitka and Ketchikan. The majority of the land in Southeast Alaska is federal land and one-third of the Tongass National Forest is congressionally designated wilderness. He stressed that there are no federal acres in Southeast Alaska that are permanently designated for sustainable, science-based, and long-term timber management. He questioned how a forest product business could even consider this timber supply reliable or economical for purposes of business planning. He urged the committee's support of SB 44. 12:30:01 PM ERIC LEE, representing himself, expressed strong concern about SB 44. He said that the timber industry claims that round log export can create jobs and there is very little money to be made in the domestic market. However, round log export is only valuable in the short-term, it is not sustainable. He explained that when the trees are gone, the logging companies leave and the jobs are gone. He said that on the other hand local value- added processing creates jobs that are sustainable, stay in the community, add to the local economy, and concern the forest for subsistence uses. The notion that round log export is good for the local economies is a myth. SB 44 is about gaining access to timber that can be exported in the round because the laws on such exporting on federal lands are much more stringent than on state land. 12:33:40 PM JOSEPH SEBASTIAN, commercial fisherman, expressed strong concern on SB 44. He said that the real problem is that there is no future in logging and exporting cathedral cedar trees. He explained that the majority of sales will be exported. These are trees that are 400 to 600 years old and are irreplaceable. He noted that the wide distance between the proposed partials will make it expensive and difficult to administer. He said that "what were once federal deficit timber sales will now be state deficit timber sales." 12:37:43 PM CO-CHAIR WAGONER closed on-line testimony. 12:37:50 PM SHELLY WRIGHT, Executive Director, Southeast Conference, testified in support of SB 44. She said that the communities in Southeast Alaska are struggling to survive and part of the struggle is a lack of jobs. She explained that there used to be a timber industry in Southeast that supported communities and gave financial support for schools and infrastructure. She said that she has been told that the timber industry is "a thing of the past." However, an article in the Juneau Empire just recently stated that the Alaska State Retirement Fund officials are looking to invest in the timber industry in the lower 48. She explained that the state forest will be a small way to stabilize investments in the future for communities. The existence of a timber industry in Southeast Alaska depends on immediate action in order to provide a supply of economically viable sales. She stressed that there are 17 million acres in the Tongass National Forest and SB 44 will secure 48,472 acres for timber harvest management by the Division of Forestry. This is a small amount of land in the big picture, but it could go a long way in maintaining the stability of Southeast Alaska's people. She urged the committee to support the expansion of the Alaska State Forest through SB 44 and stressed the importance of opening the Tongass National Forest up to responsible resource development. 12:41:55 PM LINDSAY KETCHAL, Executive Director, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC), expressed concern about SB 44. She said she serves on the Tongass Futures Round Table and described discussions they had about how to maintain a viable timber industry. She recognized that part of SB 44 is an attempt to help sustain some of this existing industry, such as "ma and pa businesses," Icy Straits, and Viking Mill. However, the locations of some of the proposed parcels do not make sense in regards to the location of these mills. The question that needs to be addressed is: "how are we going to develop and sustain a sustainable wood product industry in Southeast?" She said that, ultimately, in order to tackle this issue it should be done comprehensively and not in small pieces. The way that these parcels are aligned the timber will most likely be exported and will not go to small mills. She explained that there's a lot of opportunity to create work in Southeast forests. She noted that the Forest Service did announce that they are transitioning out of old growth forests. She explained that the reason behind this is that old growth forests hold important ecological values. She said that she believes that a small old growth industry can be maintained as well as the existing mills. This piece of legislation will not solve this issue. She said "many of us would prefer to work comprehensively at this." CO-CHAIR WAGONER asked why the transition to working comprehensively has not occurred yet. He said that this is a very small amount of timber and is a method to save jobs that currently exist in Alaska. MS. CATCHALL replied that the distance of the parcel locations needs to be analyzed. She explained that SEACC was involved with the Kake community forest planning process in order to aid the community in deciding what it wanted its landscape to be and how to create jobs. She stressed that it is important to focus on a community-by-community level, empower their voices, and continue with the Round Table and other gatherings. She explained that the reduction in the timber industry has been so severe that the industry is in shock. It is difficult to then turn around and accept a smaller and more agile business method. She said that when she speaks with new entrepreneurs in the timber industry such as Larry Jackson in Ketchikan, she sees them wanting to be creative. She stressed that jobs in the woods are important for everyone. 12:47:46 PM FRED MORINO, representing himself, testified in support of SB 44. He said he has been involved in financing in the timber industry since 1970. He explained that the United States Forest Service has 27 billion board feet of harvestable old growth timber. He noted that Alaska has not even harvested 100 million board feet of timber yet. He said that "the state of Alaska is the timber industry in Southeast Alaska now" and the state has the responsibility to develop this timber for employment in Southeast. 12:50:44 PM CO-CHAIR WAGONER closed public testimony. [The bill was held in committee.] There being no further business to come before the committee, Co-Chair Wagoner adjourned the meeting at 12:50 p.m.