SB159 - Susitna State Forest
Testimony provided by Carl Portman, RDC
April 10, 2012
Good afternoon. My name is Carl Portman Deputy Director of the Resource Development Council. RDC supports CSSB159, which would create the Susitna State Forest over 763,200 acres of state land west of the Parks Highway and urges the Governor to acquire forest land that is currently in the Tongass National Forest.
RDC is a statewide, non-profit, membership-funded organization founded in 1975. The RDC membership is comprised of individuals and companies from Alaska’s oil and gas, mining, timber, tourism, and fisheries industries, as well as Alaska Native corporations, local communities, organized labor, and industry support firms. RDC’s purpose is to link these diverse interests together to encourage a strong, diversified private sector in Alaska and expand the state’s economic base through the responsible development of our natural resources.
RDC is on record in support of SB 159, having testified before the Senate Resources Committee and by letter dated January 19 to the Senate Resource Committee co-chairs. In the interest of time, I will not elaborate on that support other than to say that RDC believes the proposed state forest will be of much benefit to the local economy – creating and sustaining much needed jobs in the forest products industry while providing many other opportunities.
RDC also supports section two which was added to the bill to help address critical timber supply issues in Southeast Alaska. The State was limited to community development land selections in Southeast Alaska at Statehood because Congress assumed that federal national forest lands in the Tongass would continue to be managed to provide for an integrated timber industry in the region. Hence, Congress assumed there was little need in Southeast Alaska for a substantial State land base since the natural resources on federal lands, including timber and minerals, would serve as a foundation for the economy.
Since statehood, the federal land management regime has evolved from one of true multiple uses to very restrictive management plans which have closed the vast majority of our nation's largest national forest to timber harvesting. As a result, the region's forest products industry is a mere shadow of itself and is struggling to survive with only a few very small sawmills and one medium sized family-owned sawmill remaining. The survival of the remaining mills dependent on federal timber is at risk due to constrained timber supply.
Section two of the bill encourages the administration to pursue a remedy to this inequity by encouraging the governor to negotiate amendments to the Statehood Act, or failing that, a purchase of lands in Federal ownership that are not contributing in a meaningful way to a balanced economy in Southeast Alaska. RDC supports this amendment as a forward-looking approach to breaking the otherwise gridlocked timber supply issues for Southeast Alaska.
We urge your support of the CSSB159 (RES) to help grow a renewable forest products industry in Southcentral and Southeast Alaska. Thank you for the opportunity to testify and for your continued public service.