Alaska’s yellow cedar considered for endangered protection

  • Thursday, April 9, 2015 9:02pm
  • News

ANCHORAGE (AP) — An iconic Alaska tree may warrant protection as a threatened or endangered species due to climate warming, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday.

The agency will begin a status review of yellow cedar, a tree revered and used by Native Alaska cultures and valued as of high value to the timber industry.

The decision is great news for the Tongass National Forest and for yellow cedar, said Rebecca Noblin, an attorney in Anchorage for the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that petitioned to list the tree.

“We’re losing yellow cedar rapidly to climate change, and if we don’t start addressing our greenhouse gas emissions, we’re going to lose yellow cedars,” she said.

Owen Graham, executive director of the Alaska Forest Association, a timber industry trade association, said no listing is warranted.

“It’s kind of silly,” he said from Ketchikan. “Yellow cedar is not in any danger.”

Yellow cedar trees can live more than 1,000 years. Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people use the rot-resistant wood for canoe paddles and totem poles. They can take a lengthwise strip of bark from a living tree for weaving baskets and hats, and as backing in blankets. The tree can compartmentalize the injury and continue growing.

However, the yellow cedar’s shallow roots make the tree vulnerable to changes brought on by climate warming, according to petitioners.

In a paper published in 2012, U.S. Forest Service researchers concluded that climate warming has meant less snow and less insulation for the ground. Elevated mortality began around 1880-1890 and peaked in the 1970s and 1980s, according to the study.

Across 781 square miles of Alaska’s Panhandle, more than 70 percent of yellow cedar trees have died because of root freeze induced by climate change, according to the listing petition.

Owen, of the forest association, disputed the Forest Service study and called its conclusions a hypothesis. Experts dispute the conclusions, he said. Die-off events are sporadic and “certainly not a crisis” that will affect all trees.

“It doesn’t prevent the young growth from coming in behind it and being healthy,” he said.

A listing would require federal agencies to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service to make sure their actions don’t jeopardize the species. The law also requires designating critical habitat, and bans destruction or “adverse modification” of the habitat.

Under endangered species law, the agency has 12 months from submission of the petition to conduct a status review, which considers information and public comment to determine whether a species warrants listing.

If the management agency decides that a listing is warranted, it has one more year to collect additional public comment before making a final decision.

A yellow cedar listing would be the first for an Alaska tree and only the second plant listed for the state.

More in News

tease
Man wanted in relation to Amber Alert arrested; missing teenager found

A Fairbanks man wanted in connection to an Amber Alert was arrested… Continue reading

tease
School district extends meal program deadline amid confusion

Credit for breakfast and lunch meals will be provided as needed to… Continue reading

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks at the Kenai Classic Roundtable at Kenai Peninsula College on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022 near Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Bycatch stirs debate at fisheries roundtable

Bycatch was the issue du jour at Wednesday’s annual Kenai Classic Roundtable… Continue reading

Kenai Peninsula College Director Cheryl Siemers in her office on Aug. 18, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
KPC to welcome back community with open house

One week before the start of the fall semester, Kenai Peninsula College… Continue reading

National Weather Service radar for the Kenai Peninsula and Southcentral Alaska on Aug. 17, 2022. (Screenshot)
Rain, rain and more rain

Low pressure systems drive wet conditions in Southcentral

Sockeye salmon return to Steep Creek to spawn. Alaska’s overall commercial salmon harvest across all species is currently up 15% from 2021 (2020 for pinks) with Bristol Bay and the Prince William Sound largely carrying the weight while other regions lag, according to data from the most recent Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute weekly salmon harvest update. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Statewide salmon harvest on the upswing compared to last year

Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound are mainly pulling the weight

Jake Dye / Peninsula Clarion
Congressional candidate Mary Peltola responds to a question during a forum at the Kenai Visitor Center on Aug. 3 in Kenai . Early Wednesday, Peltola had earned 38.4% of first-choice votes in a race that will determine who fills Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat until January.
Mary Peltola responds to a question during a forum at the Kenai Visitor Center on Aug. 3, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion/Jake Dye)
Democratic candidate Peltola leads U.S. House race early, but Palin may win in final count

Former governor and Republican U.S. House candidate Sarah Palin stands to benefit from ranked choice voting

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID hospitalizations on the rise

86 patients were hospitalized with 10 patients on ventilators

Most Read