Remember the Tongass? The forest on Alaska’s panhandle that has been a flashpoint for conflict over forest management for decades? The last I heard, the Bush administration was all set to log away. Now the Obama administration has moved logging away from roadless old-growth areas (though old-growth areas with roads may still be logged) and is focusing on helping the small communities located in the Tongass.

“This administration is committed to developing a framework to help communities stabilize and grow new jobs,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “The path forward must lead to job creation while protecting old-growth roadless areas, and the transitional framework announced today is a big step in the right direction.”

That framework is designed to provide jobs, including ones in the developing fields of forest restoration and renewable energy, as well as tourism and recreation. A wide array of other business opportunities are in the works, from growing oysters to restoring totem poles.

The forest service is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development programs and the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration to implement the transition.

The liaison with Rural Development is key because loans and grants can be offered under 30 different programs, said Alaska Regional Forester Beth Pendleton.

How Is This Restoration?

Right now, it’s just a plan. And the plan, if implemented, is a mixed bag. Some old-growth areas may still be logged. Others may be protected. Local people may find ways to make money without cutting down trees.

I thought it was an innovative approach to an old problem.

Source: “Feds Announce Timber Program for Tongass Forest,” by Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, May 26, 2010

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