What others say: State should keep standing up for Southeast Alaska timber

  • By Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Editorial
  • Wednesday, October 4, 2017 10:53am
  • Opinion

Alaska needs to be able to see the natural resources within its borders developed and done so in a responsible manner. Other states likewise need to be able to see natural resources developed.

But a federal judge in the District of Columbia apparently doesn’t think so.

The judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit challenging a rule issued during the administration of President Bill Clinton that limited logging and road construction in national forests around the nation. Alaska and other states have been fighting what’s been called the “roadless rule” pretty much since it was handed down literally in the final days of President Clinton’s time in office.

In Alaska, the rule has sharply limited the activity in the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska.

The administration of Gov. Bill Walker is deciding whether Alaska should appeal.

It should.

The roadless rule affects 9.5 million acres in the Tongass National Forest. That’s 56 percent of the Tongass, which at 17 million acres is the nation’s largest national forest. The rule also applies to nearly 80 percent of the 6.9 million acres of the Chugach National Forest in Southcentral Alaska.

It is the impact on the Tongass National Forest that has been the greatest on our fellow Alaskans. Southeast Alaska once had a thriving timber industry, with the communities of Ketchikan, Sitka, and Wrangell, for example, synonymous with mighty Alaska logging.

The industry has been decimated over the past quarter century, however. The bustling sawmills and pulp mills have long since been idled, victims of a steady assault by national environmental groups accompanied at times by friendly occupants of Congress and the White House. Restriction after restriction eroded an industry that once was Alaska’s top employer.

Why should people in the Interior care about this?

Because an attack on one industry could someday be an attack on one of our industries.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski noted the bottom-line impact of the D.C. judge’s ruling: “A judge can dismiss a case, but Alaskans cannot dismiss the negative impacts the roadless rule is having on our communities.”

Just about 40 years ago, on Sept. 29, 1977, the Daily News-Miner published an editorial about Alaskans views on natural resource development. It cited a poll taken at the state fair in Palmer that year by a group called The Organization for the Management of Alaska’s Resources. And, yes, that editorial did acknowledge that fair polls aren’t scientific in any way.

But the poll captured a sentiment that has been prevalent through the decades since then. Here’s an excerpt from that 1977 editorial:

“One question asked, ‘How much development of Alaska’s resources would you like to see happen over the next 10 to 15 years?’ Three-quarters want ‘enough development to provide stable, year-round jobs for Alaskans,’ while the extremes in development and preservation were generally even. Ten percent went for ‘little or no development to preserve the land in Alaska’ and 8 percent favored ‘large-scale mining of minerals for shipment outside the state.’”

“… This sample shows that there are no more over-development fans than preservationists, and most of us want only enough development to have steady jobs.”

That’s what Alaskans want today, too. Alaskans want policies from their state and federal governments that will allow this state’s economy to grow, that will allow for the responsible and timely development of the plentiful natural resources that exist in all parts of this land, and that will provide those steady jobs.

Fighting the roadless rule isn’t a fight to be waged just for Southeast Alaska. It’s a fight that should be waged for Alaska in its entirety.

— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner,

Sept. 27

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