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U.S. Forest Service plans large sale of Alaskan old growth timber

Critics have said the deal is a retreat from the forest service's 2016 announcement it would largely phase out old growth timber sales in Tongass National Forest over 15 years.

Project will harvest as much as 53,094 cubic meters of old growth lumber from Tongass National Forest

This 1990 aerial photo shows a part of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska where clear-cutting had occurred. The U.S. Forest Service says a new project to harvest old growth timber will be gradual because it will not allow more than 40 hectares of clear cutting at one time from the southeastern Alaska region. (Ketchikan Daily News/Hall Anderson/The Associated Press)

The U.S. Forest Service is planning the largest sale of Alaska old growth timber in years.

The Prince of Wales Island Landscape Level Analysis project will harvest as much as 53,094 cubic meters (225 million board feet) of old growth lumber from Prince of Wales Island in Tongass National Forest, CoastAlaska reported Saturday.

The service said the process will be gradual because it will not allow more than 40 hectares of clear cutting at one time from the southeastern Alaska region.

Owen Graham, executive director of the logging industry group Alaska Forest Association, said young growth timber might employ seasonal lumberjacks but it's the older trees that will keep remaining mills open.

"The old growth portion will provide mill jobs and the young growth portion will almost exclusively end up getting shipped overseas," Graham said. "But it's providing jobs, those are good jobs."

Critics have said the deal is a retreat from the forest service's 2016 announcement it would largely phase out old growth timber sales in Tongass National Forest over 15 years.

"If the forest service really wants to be responsive to people in southeast Alaska, it's going to have to figure out a way to stick to its plan to transition away from large scale old growth logging and get into more sustainable forest management," said Austin Williams, Trout Unlimited in Alaska policy and legal director.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game raised own concerns over losses to deer and wolf habitats, which were not addressed in the plan.

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