The University of Alaska lands office is offering two timber sales on Mitkof Island south of Petersburg this year. The lands on the southern and western side of the island would be helicopter logged. Meanwhile, the state of Alaska is also in the early stages of writing a plan for Southeast’s new state forest lands.

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One of the planned University timber sales is on Wrangell Narrows, about 14 miles south of Petersburg. It’s covers about 368 acres of mostly hemlock and spruce forest. The second is on the southern end of the island near Banana Point, about 29 miles south of Petersburg. That parcel is has over 300 acres of old growth spruce, hemlock and yellow cedar.

Patrick Kelly is regional resource manager with the University’s statewide land management system office in Anchorage. He says helicopter logging is planned for both sites. “Now the South Mitkof parcel has existing forest service roads and there may be some conventional logging activity on that, that’s up to the bidders to present. But the intent was a collaborative effort with the U.S. Forest Service and the Alaska Division of Forestry, there’s a helicopter in the area this summer and very limited time window for use of the helicopters. That was one of the reasons the university put it out at this time.”

KFSK file photo

Total estimated timber volume in the two parcels is six million board feet on the Wrangell Narrows site and 11 and a half million at the South Mitkof site. However, Kelly says the total volume harvested will be lower than that and will be up to the winning bidder for the trees. “They have a bottom line that they need to make it profitable for the helicopters to come in cause the helicopters are so expensive. So what it does is it really narrows down the field of what they will cut and it reduces, certainly reduces the impact to the land of the operation.”

Proceeds from the timber sales will help fund university scholarship and research programs. Kelly says these are the only two sales planned for the Petersburg area in the next five years. Logs from the sales can be exported. Once the sales are complete the university may offer firewood from the two sites. The land office hopes to award the timber sale contracts in late April.

Also this spring, a state agency is drafting a plan for the newly created Southeast Alaska state forest. That’s state land on 40 parcels covering about 48-thousand acres in the central and southern Panhandle. The legislature designated the lands for timber sales in 2010 and 2011.

Jim Schwarber, forest planner with the state’s division of forestry, says one of the requirements for establishing a new state forest is writing a management plan for the land. “And we’re currently working internally to develop that draft and are also doing public involvement outreach with scoping and seeking input from the public and agencies and other entities as we put together this first draft plan for this new state forest.”

Near Petersburg, some of the parcels are on eastern Mitkof Island. Others are on the southern end of the island near the planned University timber parcel. Schwarber says the state is asking for input from people who have used the lands in the past or who know about the different areas of Southeast. “All state forests do provide for multiple uses though it’s important to recognize the primary purpose for a state forest and in particular this state forest is timber management and timber production. We like to use the phrase we wanna manage it as a working forest, which basically means actively manage it for a sustainable supply of timber to help supply the local industry in Southeast Alaska.”

Other state forest lands are around Wrangell, on Prince of Wales Island and near Ketchikan. Schwarber says the state wants to identify other uses of the land and water around the timber parcels. “For example we did have a meeting with the Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association to discuss the water quality needs for the Neets Bay hatchery, which is their flagship hatchery in southern Southeast Alaska. So we work with other land owners other communities, other interests to ensure our final management plan does recognize and properly protect those other uses.”

The designation for state forest land also allows for second growth thinning on parcels that already have been logged.
Unlike the U.S. Forest Service, the state does not complete an environmental impact statement with multiple alternatives in its forest plan. The state planning process can take up to three years to finish. The division of forestry hopes to release a draft plan for public review later this spring.

The deadline to comment or bid on the university sales is Wednesday March 19th. Find out more about those offerings here. There’s more information about the Southeast state forest planning process here.