Legislature(1997 - 1998)

03/25/1997 01:30 PM House RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HJR 32 - TONGASS LAND MANAGEMENT PLAN                                       
                                                                               
 Number 1720                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON announced the next order of business was House             
 Joint Resolution No. 32, relating to the Tongass Land Management              
 Plan (TLMP) and to continued Congressional oversight of that plan.            
 He said HJR 32 is fairly straightforward and resulted from findings           
 of the Governor's Timber Task Force.                                          
                                                                               
 Number 1857                                                                   
                                                                               
 WALT SHERIDAN, Principal, Walt Sheridan and Associates (consulting            
 firm), came forward to testify.  He said HJR 32 encourages the U.S.           
 Forest Service (USFS) to bring the decade-long TLMP process to a              
 close.  It also puts the Alaska legislature on record as supporting           
 an annual timber harvest level of at least 300 million board feet.            
                                                                               
 MR. SHERIDAN asked:  Why the rush?  And why 300 million?  The USFS            
 has worked on the TLMP for over a decade, during which time more              
 than half of the direct timber industry employment has been lost.             
 Furthermore, failure to produce a revised plan has put the economic           
 lives of people in Southeast Alaska communities on hold.  The                 
 revised plan will let these people know what resources from the               
 Tongass National Forest will be available in the next 10 to 15                
 years.  It will also provide a degree of certainty and                        
 predictability, necessary to attract investment in new plants and             
 equipment.                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. SHERIDAN said there are indications the USFS is under intense             
 pressure from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to drastically               
 reduce harvest levels in the Tongass National Forest in response to           
 concerns about goshawks and wolves.  He does not believe those                
 concerns justify further delay.  There has been no new science                
 since the previous year, when the USFS issued a draft plan allowing           
 a harvest level of 297 million board feet, and when the U.S. Fish             
 and Wildlife Service issued its finding that goshawks and wolves              
 were not endangered.                                                          
                                                                               
 Number 1009                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. SHERIDAN explained that an annual harvest of 300 million board            
 feet is the amount recently endorsed by the Governor's Timber Task            
 Force.  He said we can and should restructure the timber industry             
 around value-added processing.  However, that is only possible if             
 a way is found to deal with low-quality material and if there is              
 sufficient infrastructure, as well as primary manufacturing                   
 equipment, to efficiently log, transport and process the raw                  
 materials needed by the value-added segment of the industry.                  
                                                                               
 MR. SHERIDAN said according to industry exports and the Governor's            
 Timber Task Force, that requires a minimum annual harvest level of            
 300 million board feet.  He noted that "value-added processing" is            
 not a precise term.                                                           
                                                                               
 Number 2122                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. SHERIDAN discussed the need to process low-quality material,              
 which accounts for up to half of the Tongass stand.  He said                  
 logging around low-quality material, taking only the best, would              
 leave a legacy of degraded forest stands made up primarily of                 
 defective material.                                                           
                                                                               
 MR. SHERIDAN noted that on April 5, 1996, the USFS came out with a            
 draft plan for a harvest level of 297 million board feet.  He                 
 concluded that HJR 32 sends a message to the USFS and to the                  
 Administration that Alaskans want to get on with their personal and           
 economic lives, including the opportunity to establish a value-               
 added timber industry that is economically viable and                         
 environmentally sound.                                                        
                                                                               
 Number 2244                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN stated that he supports this 1,000 percent.              
 He reported that Co-Chairman Ogan and Representative Williams had             
 arranged for them to go to Southeast communities to observe what              
 had happened.  They had also held a hearing in Ketchikan.  "And at            
 that time, it was heart-rending to see what was going on down there           
 without an adequate harvest," he noted.                                       
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN pointed out that the Administration had failed           
 to be present for this extremely important issue.                             
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON noted that they had invited the Administration.            
                                                                               
 Number 2356                                                                   
                                                                               
 BERNE MILLER, Executive Director, Southeast Conference, came                  
 forward to testify, summarizing his written statement.  For the               
 past year and a half, the conference has actively participated in             
 the USFS TLMP revision process.                                               
                                                                               
 MR. MILLER said they have repeatedly urged the Regional Forester to           
 select a TLMP alternative that does no unnecessary economic or                
 social harm to Southeast Alaska's people or communities.  In the              
 past, they were critical of the USFS's TLMP work, and last August,            
 they advocated that the USFS delay completion of TLMP until                   
 analysis defects were corrected.  However, that was before                    
 Ketchikan Pulp Company announced their mill would close.                      
                                                                               
 TAPE 97-33, SIDE A                                                            
 Number 0006                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. MILLER said they recently urged that the Regional Forester make           
 a decision, based on what his supervisors have already placed                 
 before him, and publish a TLMP revision now.  They believe that is            
 necessary to rebuild a strong, diversified economy.                           
                                                                               
 Number 0081                                                                   
                                                                               
 BUCK LINDEKUGEL, Conservation Director, Southeast Alaska                      
 Conservation Council (SEACC), came forward to testify.  He advised            
 that SEACC is a regional coalition of 15 volunteer citizen                    
 conservation groups in 12 Southeast communities.                              
                                                                               
 MR. LINDEKUGEL stated, "We all want a Tongass plan completed.  But            
 the new plan must ensure the logging occurs only at a sustainable             
 rate that is consistent with maintaining current and future demand            
 for fish, wildlife and the other renewable resources that local               
 communities here in Southeast depend on.  We believe that 300                 
 million board feet is too high to sustain the long-term use of all            
 those resources.  Therefore, we oppose this resolution, and we urge           
 that the legislature shift its effort to helping support                      
 communities' efforts to make a transition to high-value-added                 
 timber industry that produces the most number of jobs per board               
 foot cut here in Southeast."                                                  
                                                                               
 MR. LINDEKUGEL reported that 59 percent of comments from Alaska on            
 the TLMP opposed the forest supervisor's preferred alternative.  He           
 said 52 percent of those comments request significantly more                  
 protection for fish and wildlife resources.                                   
                                                                               
 MR. LINDEKUGEL pointed out that of the 11 communities represented             
 on the Governor's Timber Task Force, eight opposed the resolution             
 calling for a 300-million-board-foot minimum.  These included                 
 Petersburg, Sitka and six small Southeast communities, represented            
 in a coalition called the Tongass Community Alliance.                         
                                                                               
 MR. LINDEKUGEL restated SEACC's opposition to HJR 32 and urged the            
 legislature to use resources to help Alaskan communities stabilize            
 their economies.                                                              
                                                                               
 Number 0293                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE IRENE NICHOLIA asked which six small communities               
 opposed that minimum.                                                         
                                                                               
 MR. LINDEKUGEL deferred to Mark Wheeler.                                      
                                                                               
 Number 0335                                                                   
                                                                               
 MARC WHEELER, Grass Roots Organizer, Southeast Alaska Conservation            
 Council, answered that the six communities are:  Gustavus, Elfin              
 Cove, Pelican, Tenakee Springs, Port Alexander and the City of                
 Kupreanof.                                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 0350                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE JOULE requested copies of documents relating to the            
 59 percent and 52 percent figures quoted by Mr. Lindekugel.                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN OGAN asked what criteria were used as a basis for the             
 assertion that communities opposed it.                                        
                                                                               
 MR. LINDEKUGEL replied that the mayors of Sitka and Petersburg, as            
 well as a representative from the six communities, had been                   
 empowered to vote for those communities on the TLMP.  He stated               
 that numerous communities had opposed the preferred alternative               
 and offered to provide information to the committee.                          
                                                                               
 Number 0545                                                                   
                                                                               
 ELAINE PRICE, Mayor, City of Coffman Cove, testified via                      
 teleconference in support of HJR 32.  They support both completion            
 of the TLMP and the 300-million-board-feet annual minimum.  They              
 believe the latter is essential for the existence of any timber               
 industry.  She said the 100 million board feet suggested by                   
 environmental groups does not allow for lawsuits and set-asides,              
 for example.  Nor does it leave room for growth in the timber                 
 industry.                                                                     
                                                                               
 MS. PRICE indicated waiting for the TLMP has caused great stress in           
 her area on Prince of Wales Island.  Without knowing the allowable            
 sales level, people have been unable to start new businesses, for             
 example, by obtaining financing or drawing up business plans.                 
                                                                               
 Number 0672                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN OGAN made a motion to move HJR 32 from committee with             
 individual recommendations and the attached zero fiscal note.                 
 There being no objection, HJR 32 moved from the House Resources               
 Standing Committee.                                                           

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