CBJ Remains in Tongass Futures Roundtable

The City and Borough of Juneau will remain part of the Tongass Futures Roundtable.

A resolution to repeal CBJ support for the group failed on a tie vote at last night’s (Monday) Assembly meeting. Mayor Bruce Botelho recused himself from the discussion and vote, because he currently serves as facilitator of the group.

Earlier this year, timber representatives pulled out of the roundtable. The Southeast Conference, and several other communities as well as the State of Alaska also quit, citing the group’s inability to increase logging in Southeast Alaska.

Assembly member Merrill Sanford proposed that Juneau do the same. He says roundtable members have done little to address timber supply.

“There should be enough in the Tongass National Forest to supply two, three or four sawmills in Southeast Alaska,” Sanford said, “and we have done nothing but hurt the economy of our small towns by not having an integrated resource available for them and this group is not working on that. They said that was one of their primary goals.”

The Tongass roundtable started five years ago in an attempt to find consensus among stakeholders of the nation’s largest national forest. It included the U.S. Forest Service, conservation groups, the timber industry, and Native organizations, including Sealaska Regional Native Corporation.

CEO Rick Harris told the Assembly the roundtable has been effective in improving communication among the users and residents of the national forest.
And while there has been less progress on timber, he says it goes beyond that to other Tongass resources.

“Kind of the moniker was timber and beyond so that’s what we’ve focused on. We can understand people’s frustration that we have not found a solution to timber but that’s been a 30 to 40 year fight as it is.” Harris said he believes the roundtable has made substantial progress.

The Parnell administration has formed a state Timber Jobs Task Force, which represents one side of the policy debate over Tongass issues. It has no representatives from the conservation community.