University lands officials have made changes for one timber sale planned on southern Mitkof Island south of Petersburg. Those changes are meant to address public safety concerns about logging on steep slopes near a well-used roadway and boat launch ramp. Meanwhile, the debate over those timber sales and logging in general continued before Petersburg’s borough assembly this week.
Patrick Kelly, regional resource manager with the University’s Facilities & Land Management office emailed Petersburg mayor Mark Jensen this week about the status of planned university timber sales on Mitkof Island. Kelly wrote that the University has adjusted it timber harvest prescription to address safety concerns identified by the University and raised by the public. That adjustment means the removal of one area slated for logging near the Banana Point boat launch ramp from logging plans. Kelly also wrote the University will reduce timber harvest in an area along Mitkof Highway over concerns voiced about logging the steep slope there and the plan will be to use only selective helicopter harvesting for that South Mitkof site.

Petersburg’s borough assembly sent a letter along with the city of Kupreanof last month asking to suspend that timber sale and another planned for western Mitkof along the Wrangell Narrows. University officials late last month responded that they would proceed with the sales.

At this week’s assembly meeting, resident Becky Knight, reiterated concerns over logging impacts, and took issue with borough support for the logging. “It is troubling that in February borough officials in private with university and division of forestry representatives and voiced support for two Mitkof Timber sales. This was in the absence of further public discussion and knowledge of the potential impacts to the borough.”

Mayor Mark Jensen addressed the meeting he and borough manager Steve Giesbrecht had with representatives from the university and state division of Forestry. “They came down to tell us what they were going to do as far as their logging around the state to keep small businesses, logging businesses going. During that meeting I did not say I approved it. I said I support the logging industry. But I did state, like I do anytime when I’m in a meeting, that that is my opinion, it is not the opinion of the assembly.”

A May 21st letter from UA facilities and land management associate vice president Kit Duke cited that meeting with Jensen and Giesbrecht and said those two voiced support for the sales at that time.

Kupreanof city councilor David Beebe wanted to take more of look at the consequences of logging. “I think we really ought to have a coordinated review process that actually looks at the development activities because it’s very clear that if we take this knee-jerk Oh I’m for the timber industry, instead of actually looking at the consequences of the action which by the way, the details of which, we’re not even privy too. We don’t even have access to. That’s what I mean about the corrupt system. That is, it’s a process that doesn’t allow for to public to actually have enough information.”

Beebe submitted a letter to the borough with questions about borough support for the timber sales and public testimony restrictions. Mayor Jensen read that letter along with one from Papac Logging. That company is working on the Tonka Timber sale on nearby Kupreanof Island and estimated it had spent over half a million dollars at Petersburg businesses and had employed local residents during timber cutting on Kupreanof. That letter was in response to a comment by assembly member John Havrilek in May about logging by out of state companies with no local financial benefit.

Another industry representative, local mill owner Chris Fry, urged the assembly to consider jobs that come with planned sales in the area. He noted a planned U.S. Forest Service’s Mitkof Sale that he said will be supplying small mills on the island. “It seems like there’s a lot of talk of just shutting down logging which would basically starve us of the resource we need to be able to do what we’re doing. We’re not talking huge harvests, we’re talking small harvests.” That forest service sale is planned for National Forest land on Mitkof Island and an environmental analysis is expected out later this year.