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POW plan objections to be heard Feb. 20

Island Post Staff Writer

Objections to the U.S. Forest Service’s Prince of Wales Landscape Level Analysis documents will be heard at 9 a.m. Feb. 20 at the Prince of Wales Vocational Education Center in Klawock. The meeting is open to the public and will end by 5 p.m., according to a Feb. 1 memo to objectors from Alaska Regional Forester David Schmid.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement and draft Record of Decision were released in October. A 45-day comment period closed on Dec. 31.

The Feb. 20 meeting, originally scheduled for Jan. 23, will be held as scheduled regardless of another possible partial government shutdown, according to the memo.

The analysis will assist the Forest Service in deciding what resource management activities to authorize on the Thorne Bay and Craig Ranger Districts over the next 15 years, according to the 402-page FEIS. The document states the analysis focused on improving forest ecosystem health, supporting community resiliency, and supporting economic development through activities and management strategies within four categories: vegetation management, watershed improvement and restoration, sustainable recreation management and associated actions.

The FEIS analyzes the four alternatives considered, while the 24-page draft ROD discusses Tongass Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart’s rationale behind his preferred alternative, Alternative 2.

At a Jan. 16 meeting with the ad hoc island-wide collaborative Prince of Wales Landscape Assessment Team, Craig District Ranger Matthew Anderson said Schmid said this was the region’s highest priority and therefore some workers were brought back during the partial government shutdown to keep the objection process moving forward.

About 10 POWLAT members met with Anderson, while Stewart and other POWLAT members participated by phone. Other Forest Service staff and members of the public also attended.

From the objectors’ meeting, Schmid, as the reviewing official, will submit recommendations to Stewart who, as the responsible officer, will finalize the document.

Anderson briefly listed the 15 objections from nine environmental groups and six individuals. Of the individuals, one is a Prince of Wales resident and another is a former Thorne Bay Ranger District employee, now living out of state.

The objecting groups include Alaska Forest Association, Sealaska, Point Baker Community Association, Trout Unlimited, Audubon Alaska, and Earthjustice, which submitted a 100-page document listing 10 parties, including the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Defenders of Wildlife and Alaska Rainforest Defenders, which also filed separate objections.

Anderson said that many of the objections focus on National Environmental Policy Act process analysis. Areas mentioned include timber, subsistence resources, wildlife, fish protections, use of herbicides, road maintenance and rock permitting.

This objection process replaces an appeal process and is fairly new to the Forest Service, said Anderson. The same process was used in 2014 with the Luck Creek Restoration Project.

For a narrative and related links to the Prince of Wales Landscape Level Analysis, including links to objectors’ documents, visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/tongass/powlla.

Project Leader Delilah Brigham can be reached by email at dbrigham@fs.fed.us.