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By ZACHARY HALASCHAK
Daily News Staff Writer
A new, interactive online portal has been created to share information with the public about young-growth timber stands in the Tongass National Forest.
The portal, designed off of a Geographic Information System mapping platform, features a large array of data, and can be used to get a sense of where the young-growth forest stands are around Ketchikan and Prince of Wales Island.
Included in the maps are metrics such as: Trees per acre by species type, volume by species type, inventory plot volumes, species density, land use designations and more.
The portal is easy to navigate. On the left-hand side of the screen is a list of interactive maps and data, and when they are clicked on, the screen shows a geographic map of the Ketchikan/Prince of Wales area overlaid with rasterized data representing young-growth stands.
According to a U.S. Forest Service press release: “Field crews gathered data from 278 forest stands in 9,363 data plots covering 25,853 acres.”
And this is just the beginning of the new mapping portal.
Dru Fenster, the Forest Service project manager for the portal, told the Daily News that there are plans to expand out into places like Kake, Hoonah and Wrangell this year.
She called the map design on the site a “story map,” noting that the templates are designed to be user-friendly and show the extent, and expansion, of harvestable young-growth timber in the area.
“We’re continuing inventory work into 2018, so more information will be added as soon as it’s available, and we’re also performing some analyses,” Fenster said. “… As all of that is done it will be added to the story map.”
Fenster said the allure of this new portal and the maps is that it appeals to an expansive demographic.
“I think that (there is a) wide range of public interest that this can serve,” Fenster said. “Anything from data nerds that are really looking for a deep dive into some of the data, to just the general public that is interested in what type of timber is out there in the forest and how much of it is harvestable.”
The portal is a result of ongoing efforts to inventory the young-growth timber in the Tongass National Forest. The cataloging began from a formal recommendation from the Tongass Advisory Committee, which works with the U.S. Forest Service on forest management.
“The goal of the Tongass Young Growth Inventory is to support sustainably managed forests and communities with healthy economies,” the release reads. “Transitioning to young-growth management will require collecting, analyzing, and using forest resource information to implement sound forest management practices across state and federal forests.”
This portal is a tool that goes hand-in-hand with the ongoing transition to harvesting young-growth stands in Southeast Alaska.
Alaska Division of Forestry Director Chris Maisch said in a press release that young-growth timber is a resource that residents in the area will be hearing more and more about in the future.
“Over the coming years, Tongass timber harvests will increasingly focus on the young-growth forest,” Maisch said. “The more information we have about this resource and the opportunities it will create, the more Alaskans will be able to develop this renewable asset.
“It will be a great challenge and responsibility, but through partnerships, trust and creativity, we are collectively up to the task,” Maisch added.
To explore the new portal and all of its features, visit: https:/arcg.is/WP8D.