South Revilla Timber Sale: Bad for Wildlife, Subsistence, Taxpayers & Recreation

Written by Sally Schlichting

November 18, 2020

Photo of Carroll Inlet, located near the Shelter Island area of South Revillagigedo Island, by Adam Weiland.

A huge attack on old growth and wild forests

The Tongass National Forest has proposed a massive logging project encompassing more than 40,000 acres on the southern part of Revilla Island, along George and Carroll Inlets and Thorne Arm, east of Ketchikan. The three alternative proposals analyzed would target and fragment old-growth, the most important forest for carbon storage, wildlife habitat, and watershed protection. The Forest Service proposes to:

  • Log between 4,410 and 5,115 acres of old-growth forest, most of it “productive old growth,” and the vast majority by clearcutting.
  • Bulldoze 13 to 14 miles of new road, and build another 30-plus miles of “temporary” road.

Damaging deer habitat and subsistence hunting

The Forest Service admits historic logging and roads have degraded deer habitat, and the South Revilla project will make it worse.

  • There is an “ongoing decline in deer numbers” in the area already. (DEIS at 74)
  • The timber sale will likely make things worse — for both humans and wildlife that hunt deer: “The project may result in higher risk that there will be insufficient number of deer to sustain both wolves and hunter demand,” and “may have a significant possibility of a significant restriction of subsistence uses on deer.(DEIS at v and 75)

Driving wolf, marten, and black bear populations into decline

The Forest Service admits the project, when taken together with historic road construction and logging, could harm important wildlife species across a broad landscape. These species include:

  • Wolves. The project, together with past actions, “could result in a declining trend in the wolf population within … [the] biogeographic province.” (DEIS at 75.)
  • Marten. The project, together with past actions, “could lead to a decline in population for marten in the biogeographic province.” (DEIS at 78.)
  • Black bear. “The effects of this project combined with cumulative effects could lead to population declines within the project area and biogeographic province.” (DEIS at 84.)

Devastating essential fish habitat in watersheds still struggling to recover from past logging

The DEIS cites a “High to Moderate” risk of proposed logging adversely impacting aquatic resources and key fish bearing streams. (DEIS at 176.)

A losing financial proposition

The Forest Service admits the project is a money loser for taxpayers, and likely for prospective timber purchasers.

  • Based on the Forest Service’s own calculations, logging and road building for the project will be so costly that even under the best market scenario, the overall loss for this timber sale is at least $4 million. And that doesn’t include future restoration and road decommissioning costs. (DEIS, Table 7 at 28-29.)

Destroying scenic vistas for a generation

The Forest Service wants to lower its own scenic integrity standards so loggers can clear cut larger areas of old-growth, smack in the middle of high value recreation areas, including the Saddle Lakes Recreation Area. (DEIS at 109.)

A bad idea that was nixed before

A large area of the proposed South Revilla project is recycled from a prior proposal, the Saddle Lakes project. The Forest Service deferred any logging there in 2016 because the agency failed to consider impacts of turning over 8,224 acres inside the project area to the Alaska Mental Health Trust. The Forest Service again largely failed to do that analysis here.

Timeline

A subsistence hearing is planned for Friday, Dec. 4, 2020. The Final EIS is anticipated in February of 2021, with a final Record of Decision being issued some time after July of 2021.

For more information

Contact Southeast Alaska Conservation Council’s Environmental Policy Analyst Sally Schlicting at sally@seacc.org or 907-957-3488.

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