| For Immediate Release: October 23, 2003
Corrie Bosman, Center for Biological Diversity, 907-747-1463
Deirdre McDonnell, Earthjustice, 907-586-2752
More Information: Ancient Forests, Alaska Campaign
Groups Challenge Return of Long-term Alaska Timber Contracts
Juneau, ALASKA--the Sitka Conservation Society, the Alaska office of the Center for Biological Diversity, the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council and two other conservation groups filed suit today against the US Forest Service in Federal District Court in Juneau challenging the Forest Service’s newly proposed 10-year timber contracts in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. The groups, represented by Earthjustice in Juneau, brought the legal challenge because the Forest Service has failed to conduct a public process to disclose the impacts and costs of the long-term contracts and to consider alternatives as required by law.
“Past long-term Tongass timber contracts left the public with huge deficits, a tattered landscape, and a busted timber industry,” noted Sitka Conservation Society’s Executive Director, Kenyon Fields. Field’s continued, “For almost fifty years long-term contracts associated with the pulp mills in Sitka and Ketchikan dominated the Tongass. We thought the days of antiquated long-term contracts were finally over, but now the Forest Service is trying to give one industry long term control over our public, shared forest”.
Corrie Bosman an attorney with the Alaska Office of the Center for Biological Diversity expressed concern that “The contracts are just another attempt by the Bush Administration to cater to timber interests by allowing the industry to buy timber at dirt cheap prices now and hold onto the timber in hopes that prices will increase sometime over the next ten years.”
“Half of all recent Tongass timber sales have only had one bidder, and another third haven’t received any bids at all because timber markets are down world-wide”, said Emily Ferry of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. “Why is the Forest Service working so hard to chop down Tongass timber when these old-growth stands have tremendous value for wildlife and the people who use them for fishing, hunting, hiking, guiding, and subsistence use?”
Mark Rorick of the Sierra Club adds, “While there is a huge market demand for Tongass trees, it’s for live, standing forests. As soon as you cut the trees down they become nearly worthless, and the Forest Service apparently has yet to realize this.”
The first of five expected long-term contracts, the Fusion Timber Sale would log 38 million board feet of timber in the Craig and Thorne Bay Ranger Districts of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. Bids close on the sale on October 31, 2003.
Joining Sitka Conservation Society, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council are Greenpeace, and the Natural Resource Defense Council.