Legislature(1997 - 1998)
03/25/1997 01:30 PM House RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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.