Murkowski Calls for Action to Help Tongass Timber Industry

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today called on the U.S. Forest Service to take immediate action to help Southeast Alaska timber industry transition to a second-growth forest products economy by allowing already-approved traditional timber sales in the Tongass National Forest to go forward.

"While we go through your budget proposal, another small forests-product company faces having to auction off its equipment," Murkowski said at a hearing Wednesday on the Forest Service's proposed 2011 budget. "I want to make sure you understand that if you allow the few remaining mills in Alaska to perish, there will be no timber program on the Tongass and when that occurs there will be, in my mind, less need for Forest Service offices in Alaska."

The current court-approved forest plan for the Tongass calls for harvesting 220 million board feet a year. The Forest Service, however, has failed to schedule any new timber sales this year.

"You have a forest plan that has been sanctioned by the courts and it's time that you direct your regional forester and forest supervisor to make haste in implementing it," Murkowski said. "We cannot afford to spend three to 10 years studying how to make the transition in Southeast Alaska. Though I believe the actual transition may take several decades, we must ensure that the forest-products industry survives to make the transition."

Murkowski also questioned why the agency's $6 billion budget proposal eliminates funding for road improvements and construction necessary for new timber sales.

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