1988 Scorecard Vote
While it was a landmark piece of conservation legislation, the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) included one provision strenuously opposed by conservationists. It established the Tongass Timber Supply Fund with an off-budget annual federal appropriation of at least $40 million to supply 450 million board feet of timber per year from the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska. These provisions are unique among our 155 national forests.
Most of the funding is used to build roads and prepare sales for the timber industry in southeast Alaska. Still largely wild, the Tongass incorporates the last large stands of uncut temperate rain forest in North America. The road building and subsequent clearcutting threatens sensitive salmon spawning streams and old-growth habitat for bald eagles, grizzly bears, and an abundance of other wildlife.
The government is now selling timber in the 17-million acre Tongass, the nation's largest national forest, at way below cost. An April 18, 1988 report by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) says that the program initiated by Section 705 of ANILCA lost $22 million in 1986 alone. The GAO also found that over half of the $257 million spent through the Tongass Timber Supply Fund between 1981 and 1986 was used to build roads and provide timber sales for which there was no demand, while timber industry employment declined over 40%.
Senator William Proxmire (D-WI) introduced S. 708, the Tongass Timber Reform Act, last year. S. 708 would cancel Section 705 of ANILCA and thereby return Tongass timber funding to the regular Congressional appropriations process. It would also allow the Forest Service to set the annual supply levels according to demand, rather than the required 450 million board feet. These measures would bring Tongass management under the guidelines similar to all other national forests. Co-sponsorship is counted as a pro-environmental position.