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September 24, 2021

Young Denies Existence of Big Trees

~Photo of delusional person by John Schoen. Do NOT believe your lyin’ eyes.

This post is about Don Young. Periodically, Alaska’s one and only congressman makes it a point to embarrass the thinking residents of his fine state. Some times it’s by yelling at his fellow legislators, or insulting them. Sometimes it’s an outlandish stunt like banging the penis bone of a walrus on the table while the House is in session, or wearing a propeller beanie to demonstrate how silly wind power is. But this one is just bizarre. And for Don Young, that’s saying something. But first, let’s all get caught up with a short review of the issue, so we can fully revel in Congressman Young’s delusional idiocy. When Lisa Murkowski won a write-in bid for her current seat in the United States Senate, her campaign gushed, “We made history!” And indeed they had. No one since Strom Thurmond had done it, and it seemed that she had pulled off a miracle. This is what everyone was thinking on that November day in 2010. Everyone but me. When Murkowski was declared the winner, all I could think was, “there go the trees.” Now, before I get labeled as a tree-hugger, let me just say that there are trees and there are trees. And tree-hugger though I may be, the trees I was thinking about at that time were not your average run-of-the-mill trees. I was thinking of the ancient trees that make up only .5% of the trees in temperate rain forests, which in turn make up only 3% of forest on the planet – the jewels in the crown of North America’s last remaining rainforest.  These are the kind of trees that could make even a stodgy pro-development business type feel a little huggy. And the reason that the sound of creaking timber, and breaking branches came to my mind when Lisa Murkowski won her senate race, was the same reason I heard it again when she addressed the Alaska Federation of Natives convention, saying that the unity of the Alaska Native community was what made it possible for her to “make history.” “I will never forget what you have done,” she promised. What the Alaska Native Corporations had done was to pony up and finance Murkowski’s race to the tune of almost $2 million through the Alaskans Standing Together PAC. She had no support from her own party, who was backing the winner of the primary, Joe Miller. But she did have the powerful and wealthy Native corporations who were willing to take a gamble that she would be able to beat Miller. They knew if she did, there would be a payoff for them. They are, first and foremost corporations, and profits are everything. Without the incredible financial resources that the Native corporations provided, Lisa Murkowski would not have won her race. And everyone knows it. That’s where the trees come in. Sealaska Native Corporation in southeast Alaska is in the middle of negotiating a land exchange, and they’ve got their eye on the Tongass and its trees. And if the deal goes through, we will be privatizing some of our last remaining old-growth forests, currently in public hands, for political payback.Back in 1971, the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was established to resolve all Native land claims issues in Alaska. The land selections were made, and presumed to be final at that time. A great myth-busting article by Joe Mehrkens in the Juneau Empire on April 25, 2011 sums it up like this:

The real issue is that Sealaska quickly liquidated their old-growth and now is looking for a second bite of the apple.

The “second bite of the apple” would be possible through new legislation that would open up 65,000 acres of land outside the old borders for logging and development. The Corporation would swap the land they have left (the least profitable) for the land containing the highest density of timber (the most profitable). And, of course, the lands that are in question contain an extremely disproportionate number of very, very old and large trees. These trees are not only breathtaking to see, but they are actually a valuable part of the ecosystem that supports many other forms of life in the area – from birds, to salmon, and everything in between.

~Dall Island, showing Sealaska’s clear cutting.

The legislation would allow Sealaska a twelve-fold increase in the number of these precious trees that could be taken for timber, and would mean that 17% of the very rarest stands of trees in the national forest would be open for clear-cutting. Taking the most valuable trees is called “high-grading,” and involves cherry picking areas which provide the largest density of “board feet” of timber. So, the more picnic tables you can make per square foot of forest, the more profitable it is to cut down.

Needless to say, environmental groups are up in arms over this potential disaster in North America’s temperate rainforest. Audubon even went in and did extensive research, and released a  report in which they identified the areas with the most old growth trees, and ecological value. Here’s a little piece of it (emphasis is mine). Expressed as a percentage of productive old growth:

  • 24–27 % of Sealaska’s proposed selection acreage is composed of very-large-tree old- growth (class 7) stands in contrast to class 7 in the Tongass as a whole at 1.6%, and
  • 57–59 % of Sealaska’s proposed selection acreage is composed of large-tree (class 6/7) stands in contrast to class 6/7 in the Tongass as a whole at 11.0%.

The high-grading is particularly pronounced with regard to the very large-tree stands (class 7). This is accomplished by locating the selection areas in the most productive parts the Tongass National Forest, and within those selection areas, drawing convoluted boundaries to include the very large-tree stands and to exclude non-forested lands.

In absolute terms, the proposed land selections would allow Sealaska to remove up to 5.7 % of the large-tree stands (class 6/7), and up to 16.6 % of the last remaining very large-tree stands (class 7) from the Tongass National Forest.

So, you get the idea. And you see that the theme of the report includes the mention of large trees, very large trees, and old-growth forest. Because, (as Don Young seems not to understand) old-growth forest is made up of… wait for it… old trees. And even if this article is all you have read about the issue, YOU know more about it than Don Young. Because despite all of this, a series of words has emerged from Don Young’s pie hole that can only be described as “bizarre.” As I am a compassionate person, I won’t make you listen to the entire thing, but here is the most memorable nonsense. I’m “high-grading” Young’s untruths, as it were, to ensure maximum profit for you. (00:10) “It’s very important to understand something. Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is 17 million acres of land. We’re asking for 77 million (he means thousand) acres of land to be transferred to the Sealaska Corporation that’s already been cut. There’s no old-growth timber involved in this.” (3:14) “All I’m asking today is to give an action to this congress in 1971 the rights to the Native people to land that’s not old-growth timber… It’s not old-growth timber. It’s land that’s already been cut.” (4:02) “… and they’re trying to stay away from the old growth. That’s what they’re trying to do.

“If I was doing it myself, I’d cut the old growth timber… It’s dying anyway! But nobody wants to do it. They don’t recognize it.” Don Young on the House Floor

Yup, that’s our “science first” one and only member of congress. I can’t wait until he explains that the biggest, oldest trees of the rainforest are “dying anyway” and therefore it’s some kind of mercy killing for the good of the other trees that have their whole lives ahead of them. He can start be telling the 300 scientists who wrote this letter expressing their serious concerns over the future of the last remnants of temperate rainforest. So, remember boys and girls, the old-growth rainforest does not contain big trees, but even if it did, we should cut them all down. ~ Photo of man standing by imaginary tree in the Tongass National Forest by Jack Gustafson. If the tree were real, it should be felled immediately to put it out of its misery. But it’s not.

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21 Responses to “Young Denies Existence of Big Trees”
  1. Ravenhouse says:

    Although I would agree ANCs wield influence, I would not attribute his loss entirely to them. I believe IMHO that the election was up to Joe to win or lose- after winning the primary you are as good as gold. I think it was the post primary debates where he lost the constituency with his lack of focus on policy and advocacy for Alaska, and his focus on personal attacks of Lisa Murkowski. He only reaffirmed and compounded his lack of leadership by attempting to deprive voters of their intent, delaying the election results and bemoaning Lisa not following her word in regard to not running as an independent.

    Morgan Howard’s words are very matter of fact, unemotional, and balanced. Yes, logging is sometimes a difficult choice however such development offers economic opportunities for our struggling villages, and provides revenues for shareholder dividends, scholarships, internships, and many other services and benefits that contribute to the lifestyle and well being of EVERYONE in the Southeast region.

    Mr. Howard makes a good point that the timber harvest by Sealaska represents an insignificant fraction of the Tongass and keep in mind more than 80% of the Tongass is placed under permanent protection.

    I appreciate the insight Morgan provided in that many use the anti-corporate argument to mask the true issue at heart that some individuals have towards the issue which is that is more a matter of prejudice and bigotry than anything else. I take solace in knowing that this is small minority and that there are many Non Natives who support the Native community, Native institutions, and this bill because of the economic value we bring to not only the region but the entire state, not to mention the cultural diversity we enhance their lives with.

    Yet, the economic contribution does not in and of itself justify the means- it is simply a measurement of empirical data to consider in regards to the contributions ANCs make that provide economic stimulus to Alaska’s boom bust economy. In spite of the acknowledgment of the need of economic stimulus, Sealaska has held several hundred community meetings, made considerable concessions to the legislation in response to community concerns, and grants unprecedented public access to the proposed selections, and has chosen alternative energy and other small scale non-development opportunities over timber development, as well as designate certain areas as historical and sacred sites- all of which demonstrate balance of conservation, and preservation of our history with economic development.

    To conclude, I would offer the to individuals opposed to the bill to offer legitimate reasonable solutions to the bill. It is easy to criticize and mock yet it is not a productive solution to the problem. What are sound, logical, policy solutions to bring much needed economic opportunities to the region?

    • milkacow says:

      A reasonable solution is Sealaska finalize the selections they made four years ago in their submission to the BLM for the lands they agreed to take in 1975. It is totally unreasonable that people in nine towns affected by Murkcowski’s special four BILLION Dollar Earmark legislation for Sealaska have to suffer just so Sealaska can be enriched. It is a lie that 80% of the Tongass is protected. Not even close. No one is opposed to logging. We are opposed to this special interest earmark for one corporation. See Tongass Low Down for more information.

  2. shareholder says:

    This bill is for one thing. Executive bonuses.
    Sealaska grossed 260 million dollars last year, 2011. 7 million dollars was the profit from Operations and the Marge Young Permanent Fund. Shareholders paid 7.7 million dollars to the top 47 Sealaska managers and boardmembers of the Sealaska corporation in 2011.
    Mr.Howard knows, Sealaska is one of, if not the biggest customer of his production company.
    This bill means nothing to the economic lives of Sealaska’s shareholders.
    It is a monument to bad corporate management. But it’s real purpose is to keep Sealaska’s 40 year old lie, to shareholders of logging at sustainable rates from surfacing by running out of marketable logs.
    Mr.Howard with all due respect, adding new shareholders wasn’t to ensure the future, It was recruiting more sheep for management to shear, with discretionary voting and no term limits.
    Working to devalue and being paid to devalue original shareholders stock britches management fiduciary responsibility to original shareholders by working to benefit non shareholders. It cost shareholders 1.5 million dollars on a new shareholder campaign that enlisted 2500 new shareholders that don’t average 75 cents per day in dividends.
    The 50 top managers and boardmembers have bled 37 million dollars out of the corporation in compensation just in the past 5 years.
    ANCSA reform is what Alaska Natives need more than this scam to keep Sealaska executives in the chips.

  3. Laura Grabhorn says:

    I’m also a Sealaska shareholder. I will not ever refer to myself as a “Sealaska Tribal Member shareholder. Sealaska is not a tribe. Even though it seems to be working toward that end.

    Historic logging practices of this privately held corporation do not bode well for any sort of sustainable logging practices on the lands Sealaska is seeking. Sealaska is not a benevolent corporation that is vastly different from other corporations. When financial interests come into play, the corporate oligarchy will do what ever it takes to whomever it must to protect itself from any sort of shareholder questioning of its business decisions and practices.

    Actual tribal members who even have a nominal understanding of traditional teachings certainly recognize that clear cutting and disrespect shown to the forests is not culturally based. A few scholarships thrown at the shareholders will never bring the old growth ones back. ever. This is the reality you must live with as a Tlingit, a Haida or a Tsimshian and as a Sealaska shareholder.

  4. Peg says:

    This is the same idiot who once held up a piece of white poster board and declared that that was what ANWR looked like. What a fool. I’ve traveled through ANWR and that’s not what it looks like. I think perhaps he was confused about the white space. It’s actually between his ears.

  5. zyxomma says:

    So … Yon Dung is holding death panels for old-growth temperate rainforest? (which, by his propeller-beanied head’s reckoning, can’t really be all that old anyway, since it’s all been cut). I can (sorta kinda) understand this nonsense from Lisa M.; it’s tit for tat. Sealaska put her back into her Senate seat; she owes them. That I understand. What I DON’T understand, and CAN’T understand, is why the rest of us should have to pay her tab. With ancient trees, no less!!

    I have seen the destruction of old growth forest elsewhere. When I was hiking in New England in the 1980s, the only sounds NOT made by Mother Nature were (a) fighter jets from the nearby base in MA, and (b) chainsaws.

    When I was on a plane to Kalispell (near Glacier National Park in Montana), one of the passengers was looking out a window. She asked, “What are all those crooked white lines in the green forest?” It broke my heart to have to answer: “Logging roads.”

    No amount of board-feet, or the money that can be made from such board-feet, is worth the loss of old-growth trees. Sealaska is just another greedy, heartless corporation; I don’t give a fig that it’s native-owned. It might as well be owned by BP or Trump. Shame on them.

    • Alaska Pi says:

      Actually Zyx- it does make a difference.
      A big difference.
      For profit , yes.
      While I disagree with Mr Howard’s argument, much of what he says is true and makes the Regs very different- not necessarily good :-), just very different.

  6. Resident says:

    Where were these studious “Concerned” People when the IMF & The WORLD BANK; Took possesion of the Country of Brazil – Amazon Rain forest?? And The Loggers and Millers; Harvesting the Redwoods of the Californias???

    Why a ‘report’ by – Audobon? and no ‘report’ by US Dept. of Forestry? or even US Fish & Wildlife Service?

  7. Beejay says:

    Not the Tongass again?!? Oh wait, it’s Don Young, therefore it’s okay. Isn’t it time he was declared incompetent and sent off to a home for beyond-the-expiration-date politicians? Isn’t that on Lake Lucille in Wasilla? He ought to enjoy it there…

    To rewrite his quote and make it personal: “If I was doing it myself, I’d cut the old politicians… They’re dying anyway!” Dying in the brain…

    Old growth is for this treehugger a spiritual experience. You feel the age, in the air, when you are there, and it is not unlike being in a cathedral. But, it is alive, all around you, in a celebration of life as it was and should be. There is not too much left now, and the short sighted “bonanza” that is harvesting truly helps no one in the end.

  8. fishingmamma says:

    I remember Lisa M talking extensively about her concern for the future and the viability of the “mom and pop” timber operations, and about how she was going to be the only one to protect their interests against the wicked corporations and against the wicked environmentalists. So “Mom” is Sealaska. I have one question: Lisa, Who’s your daddy?

  9. beth. says:

    But, but, but…Young says “It’s not old-growth timber. It’s land that’s already been cut.” So, what’s the problem? Why’re folks opposed to this friendly little ‘swap’? [/snark]

    Question: When these location-specific/special interest issues are expounded upon on the floor, and then come up for vote, is there *any* “counter argument” [read: fact-based information] presented before members say “yea” or “nay”? Or do members just vote on what they’ve heard from, say, Young? beth.

  10. Mo says:

    How does this old road apple keep getting elected?

    Alaska: the stupid, it burns.

  11. Roy says:

    Cut down really old growth. Starting with Don Young.

  12. Alaska Pi says:

    Congressman Young is s blippin bleep and bleep-bleep-bleep.
    Furthermore, ^#@@^*!!!!^$#$&*(_)+.
    I am so tired of his lies, these are not disagreements, these are not a different POV- they are lies.

    Sealaska should not be able to choose outside of the original boundaries . Period.
    They dang well know those 77K acres have high timber value even if our idiot Rep pretends he doesn’t know.

    I’ve stood by those trees, spread my arms at their base to get a sense of how big they are , smelled them, touched them.
    What a load of @%^&)_+@~@~ hooey Representative Young. What a load.

  13. juneaudream says:

    Don Young (..strange..that ..last name..could it have..colored his way of ..seeing things/situations?) You see no value..in things old..so you, nor your family..collect, or honor..antiques? You give not a fig..for any in ..Your family ..tree..beyond ..perhaps your parents? When .’.Old’..they have lost their lustre, their value..and thus should be ..removed..in some fashion. Good man..I am 74 and a half..and have a distinct illness. Should the people around me here..see about offing one..in ill heath? Do we human..we .animals, we plants.not generate..the..New Growth..that carrys forward..all life? Then sir..I suggest before you kill such important..generative old forests..you come down here to Oregon..and explain to my sons..why anything old..no longer has..value and bring a copy of..Soylent Green..because..pompus lil buddy..you are not that much..younger then I am.

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