I, Sean Parnell, Governor of the State of Alaska, under the authority of Article III, Sections 1 and 24, of the Alaska Constitution, and AS 44.19.145(c), find and order the following:
Section 1: Findings
- Traditional timber harvesting and the economic development, jobs, and other benefits provided by traditional timber harvesting are vitally important to the communities, schools, and families of Southeast Alaska now, and will continue to be important far into the future.
- Southeast Alaska communities, schools, and families have been hit very hard by the loss of major timber processing facilities and infrastructure on Prince of Wales Island (a 25 employee sort yard, and 700 jobs in road building and logging), Ketchikan (a 500 employee pulp mill, two 50-100 employee sawmills, and a 50-100 employee veneer mill), Sitka (a 500 employee pulp mill), Wrangell (a 100 employee sawmill, and 100 jobs in road building and logging), and the Metlakatla Indian Reserve (the 100 employee Hemlock Mill, and 100 jobs in road building and logging). The region has lost thousands of good paying traditional timber harvesting jobs in the last few decades.
- The Tongass Timber Reform Act of 1990 (TTRA) requires the federal government to seek to produce timber sales in an amount that will meet demand.
- Despite the Tongass Land Management Plan (TLMP) and TTRA, the federal government has not produced enough timber to meet demand, and two of three remaining mills (the Seley sawmill and the Silver Bay mill) have closed since the TLMP was revised in 2008.
- Current demand from a single remaining mid-size mill for timber, the Viking sawmill, is greater than the amount of economic timber sales supplied by the federal government. If this demand were met, it would allow the sawmill to add a second shift and create jobs for more Alaskans and their families.
- Despite the TLMP and TTRA, the federal government is currently pursuing an approach to timber management on the Tongass that was not selected as the preferred alternative in the 2008 TLMP and that fails to meet demand for timber.
- Sustaining the current number of jobs and Alaskan families that depend on traditional timber harvesting, and growing more jobs, can only be accomplished in partnership with industry, communities, the State, and the federal government, with a better understanding of the industry, the amount of timber needed, how to prepare economical timber sales, and current and new wood products and markets.
- A key goal and purpose of the Tongass Futures Roundtable, the stakeholder group established in 2007, was to restore economic viability and jobs to the communities of Southeast Alaska. The key to reaching this objective is restoring a reliable and stable continuous supply of timber from the Tongass for traditional timber harvesting. Unfortunately, the proposals to accomplish this goal have either been rejected or failed to advance. The Tongass Futures Roundtable seems unable to achieve a consensus or make any progress. Proposals that have been rejected or failed to advance include support for construction of multiple-use roads, support for United States Forest Service (USFS) timber sale plans, support for full implementation of the 2008 TLMP, and even a proposal to support the only timber sale available to Southeast Alaska’s last mid-size sawmill.
- While timber supply efforts have been stalled, environmental groups have worked with the federal administration to have the USFS abandon its traditional timber sale program for a harvest plan focused on young growth, most of which is not even mature for harvest. This is against the procedures for adopting an amendment to a forest plan, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the TTRA, and the 2008 TLMP.
- The inability of the Tongass Futures Roundtable to provide a solution or assistance in meeting the demand for timber for traditional harvesting requires a new approach to the issues.
Section 2: Purpose
The purpose of the Order is to establish the Alaska Timber Jobs Task Force (task force) as a combined federal, State, and private industry task force:
- to review, analyze, and prepare recommendations to the Governor regarding management and care of the State forests that will lead to economical traditional timber harvests in the future;
- to review, analyze, and prepare recommendations to the Governor for future additions of State land to the existing State forests that will increase the acreage of those forests;
- to review, analyze, and prepare recommendations to the Governor for the creation of new State forests where the primary emphasis on use will be for timber harvests and creation of economic development and jobs for Alaskans and their families;
- to review, analyze, and prepare recommendations to the Governor for changes or amendments to the State statutes or regulations governing timber harvesting that will lead to the creation of economic development and jobs for Alaskans and their families, and Alaskan communities;
- to review, analyze, and prepare recommendations to the Governor related to State land selections in the Tongass National Forest and identification of lands already selected and conveyed or pending that have little or no economic use but may have other value and identification of federal lands for which an exchange could be offered to the federal government;
- to survey, study, and submit a report to the State and the federal governments of current demand for timber in the Tongass National Forest and the specific business and economic opportunities that could be supported by such demand, if the timber were supplied;
- to review, identify, and report quarterly to the State and federal governments on possible timber sales in the Tongass National Forest that would meet demand with economical timber sales, including the identification of possible 10-year timber sales;
- to review, identify, and report annually on July 30, to the State and federal governments on current wood products and potential new products and uses, such as biofuel or cellulistic ethanol, that could be made from timber supplied by the Tongass National Forest; and
- to review and submit recommended areas of research related to use of the Tongass National Forest and impacts on wildlife.
Section 3: Alaska Timber Jobs Task Force
- The task force is composed of the Governor or the Governor’s designee, and eight additional members appointed by the Governor:
- the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, or the Commissioner’s designee;
- the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game, or the Commissioner’s designee;
- the Executive Director of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA), or the Executive Director’s designee;
- the United States Department of Agriculture Regional Forester for Alaska, or the Forester’s designee;
- a member representing the interests of communities in Southeast Alaska; and
- three members representing the Alaska forest products industry.
- The Governor shall appoint one member as chairman of the task force. All public members of the task force serve at the pleasure of the Governor.
Section 4: Responsibilities and Reports
The task force shall submit a preliminary report on or before July 30, 2011, to the Governor, and a final report on or before July 1, 2012, that addresses all the areas set out in Section 2 of this Order, with a particular focus on creating jobs for Alaskans and their families, and identifies specific federal policies or procedures that stand in the way of job creation and economic development.
Section 5: Administrative Support
The Department of Natural Resources shall provide necessary administrative support to the task force.
Section 6: General Provisions
The task force members do not receive compensation as members of the task force. Members of the task force who are not State or federal employees are entitled to per diem and travel expenses in the same manner permitted for members of State boards and commissions. Per diem and travel expenses for members of the task force who are appointed as a member of a State or federal agency are the responsibility of that State or federal agency.
The task force may use teleconferencing or other electronic means, to the extent practicable, in order to gain the widest public participation at minimum cost.
Meetings of the task force shall be conducted, and notice of regular meetings provided, in accordance with AS 44.62.310 and 44.62.312 (open meetings of governmental bodies). A majority of appointed voting members of the task force constitutes a quorum for conducting business. Records of the task force are subject to inspection and copying as public records under AS 40.25.110 – 40.25.220.
This Order takes effect immediately.
DATED at Juneau, Alaska this 5th day of May, 2011.