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By Dan Rudy 

Timber sale approved southwest of Wrangell

 

Submitted Illustration

Earlier this month the United States Forest Service finalized a sizable timber sale on Etolin Island.

The Tongass National Forest's Navy timber sale will make available for commercial harvest 13.1 million board feet of sawlog and utility timber. The lands involved in the sale encompass 1,252 acres.

"The project area used to be quite a bit larger," explained Austin O'Brien, timber staff officer for Wrangell Ranger District. Initiated nearly a decade ago, the sale was named for Navy Lake, to Etolin's southeast.

The sale was put on hold in 2009, stemming from litigation relating to the 2001 Roadless Rule. The rule establishes

prohibitions on road

construction and timber harvesting on more than 58 million acres of National Forest System lands.

Now to avoid roadless areas entirely, the selected alternate currently envisioned would instead keep to Etolin's existing logging road structure. Approximately 0.6 mile of

new road will be constructed, and 0.8 mile of National Forest System road reconstructed.

A further 2.7 miles of temporary road will also be needed, to be decommissioned and allowed to revegetate after harvest.

All new roads in the system will be placed in storage and closed to public motorized use after timber sale activities are completed. Existing log transfer facilities at Anita Bay will be used to transport the timber off the island.

The Navy timber sales will now enter the appraisal process. "We're just in the initial stages of the valuation process," O'Brien explained.

The area being considered for the sale is predominantly old-growth, and appraisal crews will take a detailed record of tree grades, sizes and species.

"All that plot data we take from our crews is processed," he said, producing a valuation. Sales would not be advertised until a positive value is determined, as USFS will not proceed with a sale projected to run at a loss.

Other details may change with a more intensive assessment. O'Brien explained that the 13.1 million board feet is based on planning estimates, but the final amount may differ once crews begin their appraisal.

"They could vary," he said, though not by much.

How the lots will be harvested will also be determined, as well as how to manage the sale.

"In this case, we're planning on at least three sales out of it," explained Wrangell district Ranger Bob Dalrymple.

O'Brien said some units within the sale will be tailor-fit for smaller operators, subject to a competitive bidding process. Smaller sales of up to 2 million board feet would be approved by a contract officer at the district level, such as Wrangell.

Selective-harvest, helicopter volume lots may also be bid out separately.

"We haven't come to a

decision on that just yet," he said. The district should have a better picture of the Navy sale within the next few weeks.

If a positive value is not reached, the sale would be on hold until market conditions improved.

"I think it's close to be able to do it," Dalrymple explained. "We would have to be making a decision before October."

If advertised soon, he said logging work could potentially begin by next summer.

The Record of Decision for the sale is available for review at the Ketchikan Forest Supervisor's Office and Wrangell District Office. It is also available online at http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=14556. Hardcopies and CDs of the document are available upon request.

For additional information concerning this decision, contact Wrangell Ranger District by mail at P.O. Box 51, Wrangell, AK 99929; by phone at 874-2323; or by email at rdalrymple@fs.fed.us.

 

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