Seeing the Tongass for the Trees

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Tongass National Forest is a national treasure, as well as the lifeblood for Alaska Natives, regional communities, and the state. As such, the Tongass means many things to many people It is a source for abundant salmon, home to the Inside Passage (a scenic coastal route weaving through small islands lining the Pacific coast), and refuge for living creatures large and small, aquatic and terrestrial.


The Tongass is also home to the last remaining, significant old growth timber sale program on our national forests. The primary purpose of the heavily subsidized Tongass timber sale program is to create jobs in remote, rural communities, a relic from the Alaskan frontier development years. The cumulative effects of decades of old growth clear cutting on the Tongass National Forest, combined with the rapid liquidation of old growth by adjacent Native corporations and the state, have left large portions of southeast Alaskan watersheds in a degraded condition and susceptible to deteriorating wildlife habitat conditions.  Tongass old growth logging and the employment it creates represent the classic “jobs versus the environment” forest management conflict.

In this study, TWS economist Evan Hjerpe examines the regional economic impacts spurred by the Tongass timber sale program and the ecological effects of old growth logging. Additionally, Hjerpe estimates the regional economic impacts and changes in ecosystem services that would result from reallocating Tongass timber sale program funds to alternate forest management comprised of ecological restoration and stewardship of second growth forests.

Annual timber funds were assumed to be reallocated into equal parts riparian restoration and road decommissioning, forest restoration, and silvicultural thinning of second growth stands inside the timber base.  Impact Analysis for Planning (IMPLAN) economic modeling software was used to determine regional economic impacts and extensive literature reviews were conducted to present changes in ecosystem services from the Tongass.