U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, yesterday hosted U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on Prince of Wales Island in the Tongass National Forest. The trip allowed the Secretary to visit the largest national forest in the United States and hear from local stakeholders about the need to build a stronger, more sustainable economy in southeast Alaska.
“I appreciate Secretary Perdue and his team traveling to the Tongass to learn more about our need for greater access and economic opportunity,” Murkowski said. “Whether increasing the level of timber harvests, facilitating the development of renewable energy and mining projects, or granting recreational permits on a timely basis, we have a lot to do to ensure the Tongass is once again a working forest.”
Murkowski and Perdue at the Prince of Wales Landscape Assessment Team roundtable
Murkowski and Perdue participated in a roundtable luncheon with the Prince of Wales Landscape Assessment Team and visited the Viking Lumber Company, old and young growth timber sites, and the family-owned Goose Creek Mill.
“I really appreciate the invitation to be on the ground here, really to talk to the citizens. They want the same things that most Americans want. They want hope for the future, and that involves working forests - whether it’s working in the recreation business, outfitter business, tourism business and servicing all those needs, or working in the timber business,” said Perdue. “We think it can be done frankly without jeopardizing the growth of any type of other industry - recreational, fishing, or anything else. We don’t, I don’t believe these are mutually exclusive.”
Murkowski and Perdue at Goose Creek Mill
“The folks out in this region are hard-working, resilient, and tough, but they also need to know that their government is going to work with them,” Murkowski said. “I think they got a clear message today that our Forest Service, led by the Secretary of Agriculture, wants to be a partner.”
The Tongass covers nearly all of southeast Alaska, spanning 16.7 million acres, but federal regulatory restrictions are impacting access for timber, hunting, mining, recreation, and even renewable energy development. The result is a weaker regional economy, as local communities face higher energy costs and fewer employment opportunities.
Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.