Petersburg is asking the state’s Division of Forestry not to log some land in the area that the borough is hoping to take as part of its expanded land entitlement. The state forester says a five-year draft logging plan is subject to change.
The state’s draft five year schedule for timber sales in the southern panhandle has offerings of four million board feet near Frederick Point on eastern Mitkof Island. That plan also lists a 20-million-board-foot offering in Thomas Bay north of Petersburg. Both would be offered in 2022 and both are part of the land selection the Petersburg borough is seeking from the state. The actual transfer of land from the state to the borough is expected to be a long process, taking years.
The borough drafted a letter requesting all vacant unappropriated and unreserved land, or VUU land as its called, that the borough has selected be left out of the state’s logging plan.
Mayor Mark Jensen told the rest of the assembly in February he wanted to send the letter. “I think it’s a good idea and I think we probably all agree to it,” Jensen said during a meeting, February 26. “It’s kind of not in our best interest to let ‘em take this off of our land choices.”
This winter the borough submitted a request to the Department of Natural Resources for over 14-thousand acres of state land in the borough, nearly all of that VUU land remaining that hasn’t been set aside for the Southeast State Forest or other uses. That’s after the legislation passed last year without opposition to increase Petersburg’s entitlement to that amount.
The borough’s letter says the land selections were based on information from the DNR from 2013 and 2016. It continues, “The borough made these selections based on the current condition of these lands and believes the state intended for the lands to be conveyed to municipalities in order to promote local self-reliance and local control. The DNR’s proposal undermines both of those objectives and moreover sets the stage to devalue future borough assets.”
State forester Chris Maisch said the borough’s input could change the logging plan. “The five-year schedule of timber sales which we call the FYSTS for short, is essentially our notice document to let the public and operators know what our intentions are over the next five years. And these sales actually are in the last year, 2022 of this five year schedule. Sales that are in the earlier years are further along in the process and more likely to occur. Sales in the outer part of the schedule are still very preliminary in nature. So we have plenty of time to have dialogue with the borough over their entitlement selection.”
The land in Thomas Bay has not been designated by the state for another use. However, the parcels slated for logging at Frederick Point, a portion of the borough selection there are already part of the Southeast State Forest and cannot be selected by the borough, according to the state.
Maisch pointed out that a separate division of DNR, the Division of Mining Land and Water makes the decision on land selection requests. “And certainly we’ll be a key part of working with that division on the state forest parcels. All of Frederick Sound is not in the state forest, it’s just certain pieces and if I remember right the sale that’s proposed there is rather modest in size, it’s 210 acres, about four million feet. So that’s a fairly small sale by our standards. But regardless we’ll definitely work with all parties to adjudicate the request.”
The Southeast State Forest was established in 2010, designed to manage those lands for a long-term timber supply for industry. The bill creating it allowed Wrangell to select state forest lands for its borough but not other municipalities incorporated later.
The state’s logging plan says three quarters of the timber that would be cut in Thomas Bay is second growth. As part of that, nearly four miles of logging road would be rebuilt and more than one and a half miles of new road built in order to cut those trees. The Division of Forestry is taking comment on its draft logging plan through March 15th.