Head of US Forest Service visits Alaska's Tongass Forest

Photo courtesy of US Forest Service.

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The head of the U.S. Forest Service visited Alaska's Tongass National Forest to investigate timber sales and related issues, a report said.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski hosted Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen during the July 6-7 visit, CoastAlaska reported Monday.

Christiansen stopped in Wrangell, Ketchikan and Prince Wales Island as part of a flying visit with Alaska's senior senator. The meetings were not publicized in advance.

Murkowski questioned Christiansen about the service's southeast Alaska timber sales during budget hearings in May and the women agreed to tour the area together.

Christiansen told Murkowski the issue was a challenge and she was willing to visit Alaska to "roll up our sleeves and really look at this."

The forest service did not receive any bids in a sale of Tongass old-growth timber that ended in June.

The federal delegation spoke with industry representatives and supporters in Wrangell about a Trump administration effort to craft an exemption from the 2001 Roadless Rule that would allow logging in more undeveloped parts of the Tongass.

The forest service is expected to hold public hearings to a draft environmental impact statement for an Alaska-specific Roadless Rule later this year.

Christiansen was receptive to concerns over timber supplies for commercial logging, said Alaska Pulp Corporation executive Frank Roppel.

"We were encouraged that there's some interest and willingness to try and help the industry," Roppel said.

Tribal leaders in Ketchikan offered the visitors a different perspective.

"We prefer that there is no change the forest plan and I think most of the tribes are going that way," said Ronald Leighton, president of the Organized Village of Kasaan.

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