My hope for the Draft Forest Management Plan that is currently in a public comment period is that the Forest Service will step up to their responsibility to manage the Tongass in a balanced way that protects habitat and promotes a sustainable economy.
Recreation and Tourism contributes two out of every three dollars that comes in from forest uses yet the Forest Service isn't investing enough in those programs. Right now, there are huge increases proposed to the day use fees Outfitter/ Guiding businesses pay; fee increases that would truly harm our small business.
In 2005, the Forest Service spent about $4 million on recreation while it spent more than $48 million to plan timber sales and to build roads in the Tongass. They received less than $600,000 in timber sale receipts! There are far more productive ways for them to use their resources and creativity. Instead of building roads and offering large scale timber sales in the last intact watersheds the Forest Service could be offering smaller sales off the existing road system; sales that local operators can use for the manufacture of quality products. Jobs could be created through a program of salmon stream restoration and improving deer habitat through second growth thinning.
In addition to the economic value of healthy watersheds these areas also provide the foods that many of us enjoy. I gather berries and plants, hunt deer and barter for fish from the areas that I also have the pleasure of doing business in. I am nourished by the solitude and beauty of these special places.
We have an opportunity and responsibility to give the Forest Service our input on how we want the wild places that are so important for our businesses to be managed. The comment period deadline for the Draft Management Plan is April 12. The Forest Service public participation website is http://tongassfpadjust.net/FPA_PublicInv.htm.
Spirit Walker Expeditions