Alaska: Congress doesn’t ask anyone, yet it ends most all timber sale funding on Tongass NF

Tongass National Forest managers won’t have as much money to prepare
timber sales this year, now that an earmark long sponsored by former
U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens is gone. The annual earmark of $4 million to $5
million for the Tongass Timber Fund was stripped from this year’s
Omnibus Appropriations Act “without any consultation to the Alaska
delegation,” according to Robert Dillon, an aide to Sen. Lisa
Murkowski, R-Alaska. A spokesman for the Southeast Alaska Conservation
Council, a conservation organization that has fought timber sales in
the past, said SEACC members didn’t lobby against the earmark, though
they were happy to see it go.

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It comes long after timber’s heyday in Southeast Alaska. The last
large pulp mill closed in the mid-1990s, and the timber industry here
employs less than one-tenth the people it did 10 years ago. Last year,
foresters cut close to 30 million board-feet from the Tongass, down
from 450 million board-feet in the mid-1990s, according to U.S. Forest
Service Tongass spokesman Phil Sammon.

Murkowski tried but failed to stick the earmark back in, and criticized Congress for the deletion. “This body made a promise that it has never fully lived up to and now it’s trying to abdicate its responsibility to Southeast Alaska completely,” she said in a statement March 4.

She was referring to a promise in the 1980s Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which mandated a timber program of 450 million board feet a year to be taken from the Tongass – language that was removed, environmentalists noted, in the 1990s Tongass Timber Reform Act.

About $8.8 million of $48.6 million, or 18 percent, of the Tongass budget for next fiscal year was allocated for timber sale planning, but the agency also
expected the earmark on top of those funds. This year, the agency will
mostly compensate for the loss, spending about $11.9 million to prep
sales. The extra money comes from one-time funds not included in the
main budget – some for long-term timber sale planning allotted last
year, and some that was borrowed for Lower 48 forest firefighting.
“But it will affect us in other years,” Sammon said.

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Comments (7)

pterophileMarch 29th, 2009 at 5:05 pm

That, “SEACC members didn’t lobby against the earmark” is because the organization has been neutralized by their receipt of foundation funding dictating specific outcomes at the Tongass Futures Roundtable (TFR). The foundation agenda for passing Quid pro Quo Wilderness legislation as a product of TFR precludes lobbying against such earmarks.

Such was the case with the Chabot-Andrews Amendment which would have stopped all taxpayer funding for logging roads on the Tongass. During a TFR ad hoc committee addressing the threat of Chabot-Andrews, SEACC, as a member of the committee, actually asked the USFS to accelerate timber sale planning without ever notifying their affected members:
“The committee asked the Forest Service to consider accelerating the following sales to FY08:
• Big John (Central Kupreanof Island) (up to 70 million board feet worth of new clearcuts alone)
• Logjam – roaded portion
• Tonka

It was not for lack of resources that the SEACC staff never alerted its membership to such worthy causes. It is just that foundation funding now dominates and dictates a once effective, and now neutralized organization.

morton salty dogMarch 31st, 2009 at 9:59 am

thanks for bringing this important information to our attention. we look forward to more revelations

tongassloverApril 9th, 2009 at 4:15 pm

pterophile – your vitriol against SEACC is unwarranted and unsubstantiated. they’re still the local voice for Tongass conservation and are working toward protecting millions of acres proactively, not just on the defensive.

pterophileApril 10th, 2009 at 12:39 am

Tongasslover — (that is, conditional lover? — or better yet, SEACClover) — your defense of SEACC is unwarranted and unsubstantiated, that is, unless you’re on the foundation payroll and are willing to overlook SEACC’s role in the Chabot Andrews Committee Report. The 100-plus million board feet of oldgrowth forest you profess to love, apparently, isn’t in your backyard.

Unfortunately, those clearcuts SEACC asked to “accelerate” will be in my backyard, and SEACC never mentioned their little back room deal with the USFS to me, a SEACC member, or the rest of its affected members. That matters, and if it doesn’t matter to you, that’s you’re moral dilemma. It should then come as no surprise you’re uncomfortable with my statements.

Unfortunately, SEACC once represented ecosystem integrity and local voices on the Tongass. Their “proactive” approach has been bought and paid for by over a million dollars of foundation funding.

Unfortunately, SEACC’s “proactive”role in accelerating timber sales on many thousands of acres of the Tongass you profess to love, is unequivocally, and inescapably, undeniable.

It seems in order to accept SEACC’s “proactive” strategy, you’ve bought into the hogwash that “just on the defensive” isn’t good enough. I beg to differ. Defensive actions taking the government to court for its failure to uphold foundational environmental legislation is both efficacious and good enough to achieve the protections we have won to date. And SEACC didn’t have to dupe its board or sell-out its membership, or roll on establishing more taxpayer funded timber subsidies in order to accomplish those “defensive” actions.

There is nothing left to speculate upon, other than the highly specious nature of your claim to be a lover of the Tongass.

morton salty dogApril 10th, 2009 at 7:14 am

tongass lover

Pterophile made some charges about specific issues on specific areas. If you have evidence that his charges are untrue, would you please post them and go through the list point by point. Thanks.

We know the Board has its heart in the right place and wants strong protections. This is not about slinging mud. It is about airing accusations and getting good data..

jellyrollSeptember 25th, 2009 at 12:10 am

S881 the sealaska rip off bill
Attorney Jonathan Tillinghast ( on the staff of Patton Boggs, the high powered Washington DC lobbyist law firm which also represented Exxon after The Spill) has his office in the Sealaska building in Juneau where he collected five thousand dollars in 2004 from Sealaska Corporation for lobbying according to Alaska state records page 18.

We have not determined how much others in his firm have taken in from Sealaska, but we were taken by some other interesting connections.

To wit, this year Patton Boggs, in a suprise move, deposited $35,000 into US Senator Marry Landrieu’s pocket, her third largest campaign contribution or whatever you want to call it .

In June of this year, Senator Landrieu joined the only other Senator outside of Alaska who cosigned the Sealaska Bill S 881. Senator Murkowski introduced the bill originally cosponsered by Senator Begich.

As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resouces Committee, Landrieu will vote on the the Sealaska Bill when it comes before her committee in early in November. Hopefully, she is the only aye vote provided no more lobbyists have been stuffing pockets or making side deals having nothing to do with Northern Prince of Wales Island where, if this bill passes, Sealaska is sure to strip the trees like it has everywhere else it has operated.

We haven’t yet inquired whether Wall Street firm JP Morgan helps finance Sealaska, but trust Alaska Public Radio will do the work for us. Here’s a hint. Landrieu got $ 45,000 from JP Morgan this year.

We know that the people of Louisiana, where the star of All the Kings Men was defeated by Hale Boggs, have a deep interest in whether public land is transferred in Alaska to the for profit Sealaska Corporation, so maybe that is why the Louisiana Senator takes such a deep and abiding interest in this bill? Or maybe it is payback for the help the Louisana Senator got from Senator Murkowski when she wanted to drill for oil off of Florida. But it is nice to see such bipartisan cooperation, albiet with a total of three Democrats and one Republican backing this popular bill.

Or maybe Senator Mark Begich was able to round up Landrieu. Begich’s father and Hale Boggs perished over the Gulf of Alaska while flying to Juneau. Hale was the father of Thomas Boggs, who is the Chairman of Patton Boggs.

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