As objection hearings wrap, countdown to new Tongass plan

The U.S. Forest Service wrapped up objection hearings Wednesday on a plan that could shape the future of timber in the Tongass National Forest.

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It was the last chance for the public to register opposition to to the Tongass Land and Resource Management Plan amendments, which has been nearly three years in the making and will go into effect this winter. The meetings took place during a two week span in Ketchikan and Juneau.

About 27 groups and organizations testified in opposition — including the state of Alaska.

Timber industry reps say the forest service plan transitions too quickly from logging valuable old growth trees to smaller young growth timber. Meanwhile, some environmentalists believe there’s too much old growth left on the table.

Beth Pendleton, of the Forest Service, said the plan outlines a new direction for the Tongass but that doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. This is called adaptive management.

“So, as new information becomes available because we’re moving into a new management regime for example around young growth, that we take that information more real time and make adjustments in the management approach,” Pendleton said.

In all, less than 400 timber industry jobs remain in Southeast.

Pendleton has until Nov. 28 to respond to the objectors about what changes the forest service will incorporate — if any. The final plan is expected to be completed this December.

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