Letter to USFS Intrim Chief Christiansen Regarding the Tongass National Forest

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Letter to USFS Intrim Chief Christiansen Regarding the Tongass National Forest

Interim Chief of Forest Service Vicki Christiansen

USDA Forest Service
Sidney R. Yates Federal Building
201 14th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024

May 8, 2018

Dear Chief Christiansen,

Greetings from the Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce.  Our organization represents over 200 members, and is dedicated to developing a sustainable and prosperous business environment which supports economic vitality, and quality of life and community well-being in the greater Ketchikan region.  Our membership includes businesses in the energy, timber, mining, tourism, forestry, fisheries, and construction sectors, as well as various local and tribal governments, and Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) corporations.

Attachment 1 is the State of Alaska’s January 18, 2018 Petition for Rulemaking to Exempt the Tongass National Forest from the 2001 Roadless Rule and to Amend the 2016 Tongass Transition Plan. The Ketchikan Chamber fully supports the State’s Petition. Attachment 2 is the December 9, 2016 request from two former Governors, two former Region 10 Regional Foresters, a former Region 10 Deputy Regional Forester’s, three Southeast Alaska communities (including the Ketchikan Gateway Borough), various organizations (including the Ketchikan Chamber), the Southeast Conference (representing 32 Southeast Alaska communities), various businesses and individuals that the 2016 Tongass Transition Plan be set aside.

Associate Deputy Chief Chris French visited Southeast Alaska during the week of February 10, 2018 to speak to the Southeast Conference and to consult with various groups and individuals regarding timber, mining, renewable energy, and transportation problems associated with application of the 2001 Roadless Rule to the Tongass and the 2016 Tongass Transition Plan.

Then Chief of the Forest Service Tony Tooke and Associate Deputy Chief Chris French held a town hall style meeting with Senator Lisa Murkowski in Ketchikan on February 23, 2018 with two panels composed of communities, (including the Ketchikan Gateway Borough), various organizations (including the Ketchikan Chamber), various businesses and individuals regarding adverse impacts from the application of the 2001 Roadless Rule and the 2016 Tongass Transition Plan to the Tongass. Attachment 3 is the local press report of that meeting summing up that the majority complaint discussed by the panels was the access problems caused by application of the 2001 Roadless Rule and the 2016 Tongass Transition Plan to the Tongass.

Attachment 4 is the report of your April 24, 2018 appearance before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in which you were very careful in your language to say the Forest Service would “look at” the problems associated with application of the 2001 Roadless Rule to the Tongass and “evaluate” problems caused by the application of the 2016 Tongass Transition Plan to the Tongass. This was followed on April 25th by a very nice comfort letter from Secretary Perdue (Attachment 5) that commits the Forest Service to doing absolutely nothing.

It is clear to the Ketchikan Chamber that the Forest Service is squandering the opportunity to repair the significant, multiple resource/community/industry problems identified by the State of Alaska’s Petition for Rulemaking, by the Alaska Congressional Delegation, by the December 9, 2016 Moratorium Request, and by the community, organization, and citizen panels which met with then Chief Tooke on February 23, 2018. The comments of Chief Tooke on February 23rd and your April 24th testimony do not indicate disagreement with those problems, yet the Forest Service continues to dither.

The most significant problem with this is the continuing loss of time. We’re now 15 months into the current Administration, but there is no obvious movement by the Forest Service to act. It will take significant time to prepare the rulemaking and Tongass Amendment and related documents and time to go through the NEPA process and the litigation that is sure to follow.

The Ketchikan Chamber requests that you, as Chief, immediately set the process in motion to respond positively to the State’s Petition, or return to Ketchikan for a town hall meeting to explain why you do not intend to do so.

Yours truly,

Chelsea Goucher

President, Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce

 

cc: President Donald J. Trump

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue

Senator Lisa Murkowski

Senator Dan Sullivan

Congressman Don Young

Governor Bill Walker

DNR Commissioner Andy Mack