Growing Questions About Timber Industry Subsidies in Alaska

Alaska’s congressional delegation and Gov. Frank Murkowski (R) are diehard supporters of logging, but according to the state’s own Department of Labor, the “economic realities of the early 21st century point toward less expensive sources” of timber than Alaska can provide to the current “glutted market.” This analysis would seem to be supported by the thousands of chopped-down old-growth trees that lie rotting outside the state’s forests, part of 10 timber sales the feds allowed timber companies to back out of for financial reasons. The U.S. Forest Service logging program spends $30 million to $35 million more than it makes back on timber sales, part of a program of timber-industry subsidies that’s come under fire from a growing group of critics, including both enviros and fiscal conservatives. Though Bush reopened Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to logging earlier this year, tourism and recreation have long since replaced logging as Alaska’s economic engine, and enviros say the log-happy Bushies are fighting a rear-guard battle.