Resource Development Council

RDC Testimony:
Support of HB105 - Southeast Alaska State Forest

February 14, 2011

Representative Eric Feige and Representative Paul Seaton
House Resources Committee
Alaska State Capitol

RE: Testimony before House Resources Committee, HB 105, Southern Southeast Alaska State Forest

Good afternoon. My name is Carl Portman, Deputy Director of the Resource Development Council. RDC supports House Bill 105, given expansion of the forest would help sustain the forest products industry, save jobs, and boost the economy.

The state land identified for inclusion into the new state forest has been consistently managed for timber harvest. A state forest designation over these lands would ensure they would remain in state ownership and contribute to the long-term viability of the forest products industry in Southeast Alaska.

RDC supported the creation of the Southeast State Forest because demand for state timber exceeds supply and local mills are dependent on a consistent supply to stay in business. The majority of the timber in Southeast Alaska is on federal land, but federal timber sales have declined sharply. Subsequently, the demand for state timber from local mills has increased significantly.

Much of the new state forest contains young second-growth stands. There is broad support for shifting timber harvesting in Southeast from old growth to second growth. The new state forest and the proposed additional parcels to it will help provide a sustainable timber supply to local mills and accelerate the transition to second-growth timber. Actively managed second-growth will provide more timber volume per acre on shorter rotations. The shift to second-growth harvesting can be accelerated and timber volume increased on state land by thinning these stands. However, thinning is a long-term investment and is only justified if the land will be available for timber harvesting.

In our view, the Southeast State Forest and the proposed additions to it are needed to help restore some sense of balance in Southeast Alaska, given approximately 95 percent of the Tongass National Forest is closed to logging. The Tongass itself comprises 94 percent of the land in Southeast Alaska. As a result, land management in Southeast is heavily weighted toward preservation and non-development uses. Of 17 million acres in the Tongass, only 663,000 acres are scheduled for harvesting over the next 100 years, and half of that acreage is second-growth timber cut decades ago. The annual harvest ceiling has been reduced to 267 million board feet, down from 520 million board feet under previous federal plans and mandates. Only 30 million board feet of timber has been harvested annually in recent years, less than 15% of the allowable cut. Timber harvests on these federal lands are likely to be constrained due to litigation and other federal issues.

With regard to state lands, the Department of Natural Resources manages over 159,000 acres of uplands in southern Southeast Alaska. Of these, approximately 48,472 acres would be included in the new expanded state forest. The remaining land is designated for other uses, including recreation, water resources, land sales, and fish and wildlife habitat, including 25,000 acres of legislatively designated state parks, refuges, and public use areas. When put in the proper context, a 48,000 acre state forest, which is open to logging and other multiple uses, accounts for less than one-third of the state land in Southeast Alaska and less than one half of one percent of the total land base in the region, which pails in comparison to the acreage closed to development.

With the Forest Service unable to provide the timber sales the industry needs to keep operating and with most federal land in the region now closed to development, the proposed additions to the State Forest are needed and would help sustain the forest products industry, save jobs and benefit the economy. Thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of HB 105.