Wrangell’s Ranger District held two public meetings this week allowing the public and Wrangell’s Borough Assembly to get a better look at a potential 5,000 acre timber sale on Wrangell Island.
The U.S. Forest Service released five alternatives in their draft environmental impact statement for the Wrangell Island Project on June 2. The Forest Service followed up the impact statement with two public meetings this week, an open house on Monday and a public workshop before the assembly Tuesday.
The Forest Service’s preferred alternative would allow two thirds of the acres to be selectively harvested and a third clear cut, producing about 65 million board feet.
That’s down eight million board feet from the last time the Forest Service sought public comment on the idea in the fall of 2015.
Wrangell resident Kris Hatten attended the open house Monday. She says she worries about the effect on recreation areas, but also has concerns over where the timber would be processed.
“My biggest question or concern is whether or not the logs that are taken out, whether they be young or old growth, whether or not they will be processed here on the island and help create jobs,” say Hatten.
Assembly members voiced similar concerns about Wrangell’s economic stake in the sale at a workshop Tuesday. Assembly member Steve Prysunka says he worries about guaranteeing small Wrangell mill operators a piece of the sale.
“It doesn’t sound like there is a way that we can embed security for our community in this sale. In these alternatives, we can protect view sheds, we can protect wildlife and we can protect road access and recreation, but we can’t protect our community’s economic future,” says Prysunka.
Wrangell District Ranger Bob Darymple told the assembly a written comment from them would be influential in Tongass Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart’s final decision.
“This is no longer one 10 year sale. It’s sales. The idea is that it’s fast. Your comment would probably be influential to Earl and how he crafts his decision,” says Darymple.
Darymple said in an earlier interview with KSTK that the harvest would take place over three to five years.
Prysunka says a sale that short doesn’t benefit Wrangell’s economy.
“And when the last tree gets on the last barge, that’s it, it’s done. There’s no more jobs. There was a wonderful proposal written years ago by our mayor at the time and Julie Decker to try to create a 30-year sale basically that would allow small mills to access that wood working off existing roads. I’m asking them to revisit that,” says Prysunka.
The Forest Service has been working on the project for over five years. The five alternatives range from about 43 million board feet to 65 million, or no timber sale at all.
Public comments will be accepted until July 18. Paper copies of the draft environmental impact statement are available at the Wrangell Ranger District and the Forest Supervisor’s Office in Ketchikan.