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U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue visited Prince of Wales Island this past week, spending part of Thursday looking at old- and young-growth timber stands on Tongass National Forest land and talking with forest-product mill operators and other national forest stakeholders.
Perdue’s visit, which came at the invitation of Sen. Lisa Murkowski and was part of his multi-state, multi-trip “Back to Our Roots” tour of U.S. areas that are affected by U.S Department of Agriculture policy, should be appreciated by Alaskans who have interest in the Tongass National Forest.
Perdue’s official time on POW was short — just a few hours. But that’s enough to gain a fuller understanding of the place.
As Perdue said after his tour that day: “You can show me the maps and you can tell me all about it, but there's nothing like being here.”
It’s important to all U.S. citizens and especially Southeast Alaskans that Perdue have some understanding about the region in general and the Tongass National Forest in particular. The agriculture secretary oversees the federal department that contains the U.S. Forest Service, which directly manages the 17-million acre Tongass. The national forest is a major factor in nearly every aspect of the Southeast Alaska economy. Forest managers need great understanding to produce policies that provide for sustainable multiple uses of Tongass land. Having a department secretary who has seen at least a portion of the Tongass, and talked with people who live and work here, can benefit that process.
So, we’re pleased that Perdue came up for a visit. He seemed actively engaged in the day’s events. We hope that what he saw and heard will help produce solid policies that enable economic growth and maintain the environmental health of the Tongass National Forest.