- Associated Press - Monday, February 2, 2015

SITKA, Alaska (AP) - The regional Native corporation for southeast Alaska will log 3,400 acres of land this year that it received in December through federal legislation.

The federal government turned over a total of 70,000 acres of Tongass National Forest to Sealaska Corp., KCAW-radio (https://bit.ly/1Dp8mmu) reported.

Most of acreage is on or near Prince of Wales Island. Older forests make up more than half the acreage. Another third is growing back from previous cuts under Forest Service management.

The parcels picked for logging this year are near north Election Creek on Prince of Wales Island and on the Cleveland Peninsula north of Ketchikan. Both are near land previously logged.

“Those are smaller, but they’re adjacent to some existing operations. So those will probably be the two areas that would see activity first,” said Sealaska general counsel Jaeleen Araujo at a recent meeting of the Tongass Advisory Committee. The 15-member panel is advising forest officials on a transition from old- to young-growth logging.

When the legislation takes full effect, Sealaska will be the state’s largest timber company.

Representatives of the timber industry pushed for the land transfers. Sealaska’s logging will protect existing markets, said Eric Nichols, owner of Alcan Forest Products and a member of the Tongass Advisory Committee member.

“It also helps support the infrastructure that’s out there in non-logging: float planes, barges, scaling companies. So all these people now have a little bit better degree of certainty. And hopefully we’ll quit losing so much of our infrastructure that helps support the forest industry here in Southeast,” Nichols said.

Andrew Thoms, director of the Sitka Conservation Society, said he hoped Sealaska would sell timber to regional mills rather than stripping off branches and selling logs mostly overseas.

“The old-growth resource that we have on the Tongass is limited,” Thoms said. “And it’s a shame when we see it exported overseas in the round without any processing or manufacturing in the region. And once that old-growth resource is gone, it’s gone.”

Sealaska contends log-preparation work provides jobs to about as many people as processing in mills.


Information from: KCAW-FM, https://www.kcaw.org

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