For additional details about the roundtable and its activities, visit the Tongass Futures website.
The Tongass Futures Roundtable is holding two days of meetings in Sitka this week, on Tuesday and Wednesday (Oct 11, 12). Norman Cohen is the Southeast Alaska program director for the Nature Conservancy, which created the roundtable. He is also the roundtable’s staff member. In May, the Parnell administration withdrew from participation in the group, and announced that it would form a state timber task force instead.
The move prompted an exodus of industry organizations and communities from the roundtable. Nevertheless, Cohen says the roundtable has held course.
“I think that the roundtable is doing the same thing now that it did a year ago. It’s looking at the public policy issues regarding communities and resources in Southeast, and how to address those problems. That’s still the goal and the charter that the roundtable has. So the members present will continue to do that work.”
The departure of the state, the Southeast Conference, the communities of Petersburg, Wrangell, Coffman Cove, and Craig, left the roundtable with twenty-two members, most of whom are expected to attend the Sitka meeting.
The Tongass Futures website lists the main policy issues as Biomass, Restoration, the Tongass Transition Plan, and legislative proposals affecting the Tongass. Among the latter are the Sealaska Lands bill, and proposed landless Native legislation.
Cohen says these topics should interest all communities in Southeast – not just Sitka. He thinks proposed restoration projects especially could interest local industry.
“The Tongass transition certainly has an effect here – work that’s being proposed under that strategy. So there’s work, and the availability of work, and people should understand what those opportunities are in the future.”
The Tongass Futures Roundtable is open to the public – but only to listen. The roundtable will take public comment near the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, probably around 1 PM, and first thing in the morning on Wednesday. On Monday, the Haa Aani working group met in an afternoon session to discuss Native lands issues.