The Wrangell Resource Council wants the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority to cancel its proposed timber sale on Wrangell Island.
The sale includes an estimated 1.2 million board feet on 104 acres and the land is located between 5 and 5.5 mile Zimovia Highway. WRC Chair Stephen Todd said he has been hearing from members of the community about the possible consequences of the sale.
“These are folks that are concerned about a 104-acre clear cut taking place directly next to their homes. There have been folks that have been concerned about this clear cut taking place adjacent to the Institute Property, which is a Borough-owned property that’s quite a valuable resource to the community and what effects that potential Mental Health clear cut would have on the property values,” he said.
At this point, Wrangell Borough Manager Tim Rooney said the city has not taken a position on the land sale and the assembly has not had a chance to discuss it formally. Todd said he has also heard concerns about how logging could affect tourism and recreation in that spot. The Rainbow Falls Trailhead and Shoemaker Bay Park are both adjacent to the property. Todd said the proposed logging would “significantly impair the viewshed.”
The Mental Health Trust is currently seeking public comment about the proposed sale, and Todd said his organization is trying to draw more attention to the issue.
“What we would like first of all is just for the community to have a larger conversation and the city and borough government to be talking directly with Mental Health Trust about this particular parcel. I think there’s a lot of folks in town, and the Wrangell Resource is among this voice, that thinks that this particular parcel would be better in the exchange,” he said.
State and Federal officials have been making progress toward a proposed land exchange between the Trust Land Office and the U.S. Forest Service. A total of 1,104 acres of land on Wrangell Island are currently included in that proposed exchange split among four parcels.
In a letter to the Trust, Todd writes “It is our view that this cancellation, along with including this parcel in the land exchange currently under negotiation with the U.S. Forest Service, would better serve the Trust and its beneficiaries.”
Our sister station KFSK recently reported that proposal has received a go-ahead from a group of Tongass Stakeholders and the Forest Service expects to begin an environmental review process in the coming year.
Todd said the WRC wants to see timber on the island used to provide the greatest number of local jobs for the longest period of time.
“I think it’s important that the Mental Health Trust knows and that folks around the region know that this community of Wrangell is 100 percent behind our small, local mills. We support our local, existing timber industry here and we want to see that those guys thrive,” he said.
The Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Office did not respond to requests for comments for this story. The public comment period for the proposed land sale ends Oct. 15. The Trust’s number is 907-269-8658 or comments can be made online at the Trust Land Office website.