A small sawmill operator’s perspective on the Tongass Land Management Plan Amendment

As a small sawmill operator and builder, I’ve watched with great interest the debate over a new management plan for the Tongass National Forest. In a recent visit to Washington D.C., I spoke with lawmakers and agency officials about how the future of my family-run business, the Tenakee Logging Company, will be impacted. Many other small businesses in the region could be impacted by decisions they make in the coming months.

Much of the debate has focused on the transition from old-growth clear-cutting to young growth timber and how long that transition should take. That’s the wrong conversation. From where I stand the right conversation would be about how we make the best use of our shared forest resources moving forward.

My company depends on old-growth timber. We selectively log large individual trees so that the habitat is left intact and surrounding trees and brush get more light, stimulating faster growth and helping to keep the forest healthy. We then turn those logs into dimensional lumber, roof shingles and shakes, bevel siding and specialty wood products used to make things like guitars and carved paddles popular with tourists.