February 12, 2006
Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman (AK)
By Darrell L. Breese
TRAPPER CREEK - After feeling he and his fellow Trapper Creek residents were being ignored, Richard Leo got some good news early this week when he opened a letter from the state Department of Natural Resources commissioner, agreeing to his and five other requests for reconsideration regarding a proposed timber sale off Petersville Road.
“We're finally being heard,” Leo said of the letter from Commissioner Mike Menge. “The decision shows that the commissioner is aware of our arguments against the sale and large-scale logging in the Susitna Valley.”
Leo was one of 17 individuals to submit appeals for the sale. All but six of the appeals were disallowed because they were filed late or were ineligible because the petitioner did not comment on the original decision, according to forestry officials.
Menge announced in a letter that he would review a decision by the state Division of Forestry to proceed with the harvest he initially approved Jan. 3. The sale included 35 different units that encompass a total of 1,286 acres approximately 10 miles west of the community of Trapper Creek on the Petersville Road.
Trapper Creek resident Kenneth Marsh, who owns a museum and farm on Petersville Road, appealed the sale because he felt it would be damaging to the local economy.
“There will be large trucks hauling wood chips passing right in front of my business, the same route traveled by tour buses and campers,” Marsh said. “The sale will in no way improve my business or anyone else's in this community.”
Talkeetna resident Dave Johnson argued in his appeal that chipping wasn't the highest and best value for the best birch and spruce in the area.
“It is sacrilege, like crushing big diamonds for industrial grit,” Johnson said. “It shows lack of respect for the forest, an absence of reverence for wood. It shows lazy, apathetic forest management.”
Anchorage attorney Geoffrey Parker, who filed an extensive appeal on behalf of the Trapper Creek Com-munity Council, Alaska State Council of Trout Unlimited and six individuals, challenged the legality of the sale and emphasized the objection from the community.
“The community council is unanimously opposed to the sale and represents the community, which is apparently overwhelmingly opposed to the sale,” Parker said in his brief.
Arthur Mannix, one of the individuals Parker represents, is a professional wood products user and for more than 25 years has built more than three dozen homes from logs or lumber harvested from Upper Susitna Valley lands, Parker said. His business requires the availability of mature white spruce.
Although the state says it will continue to offer timber sales for local, small-scale operators who have traditionally provided locally harvested saw and house logs to Mannix, the long-term future of his industry is seriously jeopardized by the continuing practice of offering these large timber sales, such as this one, Parker said.
State forest resources planner Alison Arians said if the department determines, on the basis of appeals, to issue a new written finding on the sale, another public-comment period would begin anew.
Backers of the sale include the Resource Development Council, Alaska Forest Association, Alaska Moose Federation, Paul Easley of Easley Associates, Alaska Village Initiatives and the Mat-Su Borough. NPI LLC, an Oklahoma-based firm that operates a wood chipping facility at Port MacKenzie, is expected to be the main bidder.
Officials of the Resource Development Council, a nonprofit group supporting the development of the state's resources, said in their initial testimony that the sale would benefit the timber industry and the Mat-Su economy. The RDC also said the sale would contribute to healthy forest regeneration and enhancement of wildlife habitat.