USDA moves to 'sustainably' manage Alaska forest

By Agri-Pulse staff

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WASHINGTON, July 3, 2013 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today outlined a series of actions by the U.S. Forest Service and USDA to conserve the old-growth forests of the Tongass National Forest. The actions will focus on speeding the transition to management of second-growth (previously harvested) forests.

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At 17 million acres, the Tongass is the largest national forest in the United States. According to USDA, it contains large stands of old-growth rainforest, and provides recreation and fishing while supporting local communities through a variety of economic activities.

"The Tongass National Forest is a national treasure. Today, I am outlining a series of actions by USDA and the Forest Service that will protect the old-growth forests of the Tongass while preserving forest jobs in southeast Alaska," said Secretary Vilsack. "I am asking the Forest Service to immediately begin planning for the transition to harvesting second growth timber while reducing old-growth harvesting over time."

The actions announced today will conserve the coastal rainforests of the Tongass. They will ensure a smooth transition to second-growth forests so the forest industry can continue to provide jobs and opportunity in Southeast Alaska.

A persistent challenge on the Tongass National Forest has been low availability of second growth timber for use by the forest industry, making a transition away from old growth timber difficult. Flexibility, like that provided in the Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Jobs Protection Act, recently passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is critical to making second growth forest available for timber harvest.

The Secretary's memorandum can be found here.

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