U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today welcomed the U.S. Forest Service and USDA's Rural Development Administration's announcement of grants and loans to fund several projects in Southeast Alaska aimed at creating jobs and providing economic development and stability in the region.
"These grants come at a vital time for Southeast, as unemployment continues to rise and families are struggling to make ends meet," Murkowski said. "It's important that the administration realizes that many communities rely on the natural resources in the Tongass National Forest to provide stable jobs."
While appreciative of the investment, Murkowski expressed concern that none of the grants or loans are aimed at helping sustain the few remaining timber businesses in the region, and very few are going to private businesses that are likely to create jobs. Murkowski called the 45 permanent and 198 temporary jobs expected to be created by the programs a drop in the bucket compared to the economic activity of the region's once vibrant timber industry.
"As recently as a decade ago, the timber industry accounted for more than 6,000 jobs in Southeast, and contributed some $300 million annually to the region's economy," Murkowski said. "None of the programs announced yesterday will do anything to help the few remaining timber businesses struggling to survive in Tongass communities."
In May, the Forest Service introduced changes to its management of the Tongass designed to shut down old-growth logging in favor of a second-growth restoration plan.