Sitka Conservation Society
Jun 18 2014

Dargon Point Timber Sale – Local Wood, Local Benefits?

The Dargon point Timber sale was offered on May 10, 2014. Prospective bidders are given 30 days to respond in a sealed bid process. The estimated value, as appraised by the USFS appraisal system, for the 4,520 mbf* of young-growth timber offered was $440,035.85.  The official sale and opening of the bids was held on June 10, 2014 with four bids received as follows:

    • Frontier Inc.  $ 797,915.00
    • Good Faith Lumber   $ 682,800.00
    • SEALASKA Corp.   $ 626,236.00
    • Dahlstrom Lumber  $ 470,000.00

*This bid was for 309 MBF Hemlock  and 4,211 MBF Sitka Spruce young-growth.

So what’s the big deal? To understand the issues, let’s start form the beginning. The Dargon Point timber sale is a young-growth timber harvest involving 57.7 acres on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska. This sale presents a unique, new economic opportunity and is one of the first of its kind in SE Alaska.  The sale provides large expanses of valuable and viable young-growth timber accessible by road, a characteristic uncommon in remote Alaska.

This is the Good Faith Mill in operation on Prince of Wales Island. Small mills provide stable jobs and economic diversification to our region. Supporting these valuable operations so that they can realistically compete for timber sales requires changes to the timber sale program and the US Forest Service appraisal system.

Dargon Point and the Transition Framework

The Dargon Point sale is significant because of the opportunity to stimulate the Tongass Transition and promote resilient, sustainable and economically diverse Southeast Alaskan communities by catalyzing in-region business development, in-region manufacture of value-added products, and more value-per-board-foot.  However, the same threat still exists, the exportation of the long-term benefits, along with jobs and profits, overseas. The size, logistical ease and value of the sale has attracted the attention of large-scale lumber exporters, primarily in Asian markets.

Dargon Point represents a real opportunity to stimulate economic diversification in the region. The Tongass Transition Framework was put forward by the US Department of Agriculture in 2010 with the support of communities, tribes, and entities throughout the region. The framework was initiated to stimulate job creation, address the dwindling supply of old-growth timber, and transition Southeast Alaska into a sustainable, economically diverse region with a healthy young-growth timber industry.

A large component of the Tongass transition involves moving the region out of old-growth timber harvest and into young-growth management. The outcome of the Dargon Point sale can set a promising precedent for the future of young-growth sales and stimulate a successful integrated transition.

Outdated Policy and Practices:

In 2012, during the NEPA scoping process, Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole promised expansive regional benefits

The project will be pretty wide-ranging in its impacts, from improving forest health and wildlife habitat to providing sawlogs to mills and job opportunities for local contractors…If approved, the young-growth volume will diversify the current Southeast Alaska timber industry”.  

However, these “wide-ranging” local impacts are unlikely to be realized if Cole, the US Forest Service and the region fail to address shortcomings in the current timber appraisal system. The existing appraisal system virtually eliminates local businesses by making it near impossible for small-scale miller operations to realistically compete with timber exporters. Timber sale layouts, offerings, harvest timing, and size, could be carried out in a responsible manner that encourages business investment, job growth, and value-added manufacturing in Alaska.   As it stands, the appraisal system does not fully capture the value that young-growth timber offers our region, nor does it catalyze local development.

This system needs to be reformed or amended to realistically support the values and goals of the Tongass Transition and value local processors for a young-growth industry. Alaska Region 10 is undoubtedly unique and has logistical, cultural and historical differences that need to be reflected in the governance of its natural resources. The system needs to encourage business investment and business development.

Second-growth lumber being prepared for processing at a small manufacturing mill on Prince of Wales Island.

In the last decade, the USFS has fore fronted the need to collaborate with partners as it realizes its mission across the United States. Many regional entities have been collaborating effectively with the USFS, local mills, schools, contractors, and businesses to ensure an efficient young-growth process that supports job creation, capacity building, economic diversification and a healthy future for our young-growth industry. For instance, the Nature Conservancy’s retooling loan fund intends to aid regional mills in building infrastructure for processing young growth. The Sitka Conservation Society has worked with partners to build young-growth community assets, test business plans and understand the best-use of young-growth wood.

All of these activities are in line with the USDA’s Strikeforce initiative, a “commitment to growing economies, increasing investments and creating opportunities in poverty-stricken rural communities”.  While Strikeforce and the Transition Framework support economic growth and a smaller scale timber industry suitable for SE Alaska, there is a marked disconnect between these initiatives and the sales being planned and offered. The success of the transition and the full, long-term benefits of our combined work cannot be realized without legitimate access to young-growth timber for local mills and businesses. The next major collaboration may be one that explores and evaluates the timber appraisal system and the goals of the US Forest Service. Do they want to develop and support a timber sale program that is appropriate to the scale and needs of Region 10? Or will it remain business as usual with our resources exported for others to profit from them.

Dargon Point: The Bottom Line:

All of these issues are evident when reviewing the bids put forth for the Dargon Point sale. In addition to the notable variety of bid amounts, one thing is evident; multiple buyers all see a value in young-growth timber.  However, this is likely due to the export market value. The USFS needs to follow suit and start valuing timber resources in a way that affords SE Alaska a future in young-growth timber. According to Keith Rush, Forester with The Nature Conservancy

Alaska uses about 80 million board feet of lumber every year. Almost all of this is young-growth lumber shipped up from the lower 48. Some of this could and should be processed locally.”

If the appraisal calculator were reflective of actual regional needs and the value of local resources, we would already be doing just that.   In-region processing must be represented in the appraisal system, if not promoted over export. Young-growth is a forest resource that is valuable and we should be moving the transition forward by investing in young-growth opportunities.

The solution is two-fold, first the USFS should design and offer young-growth sales that are scaled to benefit local processing rather than attract export companies. This means sales of less than 1 MMBF.   Secondly, designing and offering young-growth sales located on the existing road systems for local processing only will enable smaller outfits to be competitive in the bidding process.




Jan 24 2014

Young-Growth Bike Shelter Installed!

Chris Pearson and his crew from Coastal Excavation pose in the shelter after transporting it to its final home.

Last week, after much anticipation, SCS was able to get the Young Growth bike shelter installed at the Sitka Sound Science Center. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, we encourage you to do so. It’s the product of multiple community partnerships and hard work. This summer SCS produced a video about the bike shelter and it features time lapse footage of the shelter going up and an interview with Randy Hughey, the instructor at Sitka High who designed the shelter along with local craftsman Dan Sheehan.

To celebrate, we will be holding a small dedication celebration on Tuesday, January 28th, at 3:00 PM.  If you are interested in a bike ride, meet up at Totem Square at 2:45 for a quick ride down to the shelter.  We will be thanking people who have helped along the way and have some light refreshments.

We can’t thank all of these great people enough for their help with this project!

National Forest Foundation, CCLS program
Randy Hughey and Dan Sheehan
Sitka Sound Science Center
Chris Pearson and Coastal Excavation
City of Sitka Parks and Recreation
Mike Litman – Precision Boatworks
US Forest Service
Bill Thomason
Mel Cooke
Good Faith Lumber
Keith Landers H & L salvage
S&S Contractors
Baranof Island Brewing Company
SCS members, staff, interns and volunteers

Jan 09 2014

Tongass Red Alder

Sam Scotchmer and Pete Weiland during installation of the red alder at Odess Theater.

In 2010 USFS announced the Tongass Transition Framework, a plan to move away from the large scale timber industry and enhance economic opportunities in Southeast Alaska through stewardship and sustainable young growth timber harvesting. In the spring of 2013 SCS was awarded a Community Capacity and Land Stewardship (CCLS) Grant from the National Forest Foundation. The CCLS grant focuses on the use of local, young growth wood and habitat restoration. SCS used this grant to build on its established young growth utilization program. Through this current grant, SCS continued to promote regional young growth markets, incentivize forest restoration and further the Transition Framework by creating a vocational opportunity for local craftsmen that focuses on young growth timber and exploring applications.

Weiland installing the locally harvested and milled red alder.

In the fall of 2013 the project was in full swing and focused on red alder. Red alder has been historically considered a ‘weed species’, however due to its abundance and growth rates, it is quickly becoming valued for use in specialty wood products, cabinetry, furniture and architectural millwork such as wainscoting or molding. SCS and the Sitka Fine Arts Camp (SFAC) partnered along with a local miller and harvester Todd Miller and carpenters Pete Weiland and Sam Scotchmer. Miller harvested and processed red alder from False Island while Scotchmer, working as Weiland’s apprentice, incorporated the final product into the Odess Theater renovation project at Sheldon Jackson Campus’ Allen Hall. The result is an import substitution project featuring red alder that was locally harvested, locally dried and milled, and locally applied by skilled craftsmen.

Red alder as part of the overall, volunteer driven, renovation project.

You can find this red alder in the form of a beautiful wainscoting surrounding the entire of the Odess Theater. The wainscoting serves as a demonstration, highlighting the beauty and versatility of red alder. The red alder in the Odess joins other wood products that were locally harvested from Icy Strait or reclaimed from buildings on site. This project represents a piece of the larger community driven effort to restore and improve the community assets on the Sheldon Jackson Campus. Hundreds of volunteers have worked on this and other projects. For more information on red alder and this project, download our briefing sheet:

Jul 17 2013

Video: Second Growth Structures in the Tongass National Forest

Alaska Conservation Foundation supported intern Alex Crook  created this video that tells the story of SCS’s 2nd growth bike shelter project.

On July 3rd, 2013, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced a commitment to conserving the remaining old growth temperate rainforests on the Tongass National Forest.  He stated that this will be accomplished by transitioning timber harvest out of old growth harvest and shift to 2nd growth forest resources.  This announcement comes on the heels of announcements by President Obama regarding the need to take action on climate change and to conserve, restore, and protect forest resources as a carbon bank to mitigate climate change.   The Sitka Conservation Society applauds this announcement and feels that the time is past due for conserving what remains of our globally rare temperate rainforest, old-growth ecosystems.

As part of the Sitka Conservation Society’s efforts, we have partnered with the Forest Service, PNW Research Labs, Sitka High School, local carpenters and millers,  the National Forest Foundation, and many more, to determine effective and sustainable applications of Tongass 2nd growth resources that promotes conservation of the Tongass while also providing opportunities to use Tongass wood products.  With support from the National Forest Foundation’s Community Capacity and Land Stewardship Program,   SCS has initiated projects with local partners that build community assets using locally milled timber products. These projects promote sustainable harvesting of second growth timber and micro timber sales that support small, local mills. SCS tries to design projects that provide vocational opportunities for the harvest, milling, processing, and utilization of these local timber products. One such project partnered with the local high school construction course to build a bike shelter. The shelter serves as a demonstration project that will be set up in a highly visible location and educate Sitkans and visitors on the story of the Tongass and second growth timber.

Jul 02 2013

Building a Local Bike Shelter, It Takes a Village

Dan Sheehan works on the shelter’s timber frame

As you may recall from a previous post by Ray, a bike shelter is being built locally, using Tongass wood and will be landing at the Sitka Sound Science Center soon.  I say landing, because it has been constructed at Sitka High School and will actually be transported courtesy of a sizeable fork lift and truck, thanks to S&S contractors, and placed at its final home.

The shelter is a beautiful timber framed structure made of young growth Sitka spruce and old growth red cedar. Timber framing is a traditional style of building that uses non-dimensional lumber, that is, no 2”x4”s or other standard timber sizes are used in the construction of the frame. Instead, timber framed construction uses large, squared timbers and relies on carefully designed and fitted joints using wooden pegs to hold the frame in place. Not only is the bike shelter a much needed asset, it is charming in its execution thanks to the vision of Randy Hughey and newly transplanted Dan Sheehan. Randy, who has just retired after 30 years, has been running the Sitka High Construction and Industrial Arts courses, and Dan is an experienced timber framer. The two partnered up for this project and have since poured countless hours of their personal time into the construction of the shelter along with the help of SHS students and local volunteers.

The shelter will temporarily have four U-shape racks, until the final rack is designed and installed. Mike Litman, of Precision Boatworks, will be designing the racks for the shelter.  The structure joins a growing network of bike shelters around Sitka, including one being built for Pacific High School by Pat Hughes (UAS) and Pacific High students.  This shelter will serve as a demonstration project, highlighting the importance of local products, local craftsmanship and knowledge, the strength of community and contributing to local economy.  SCS was able to fund this project through the Community Capacity and Land Stewardship (CCLS) program with the National Forest Foundation (NFF).  The goal is to share local knowledge, connect local processors with local builders, and influence resource managers to make decisions on the Tongass that benefit local communities. A sustainably managed forest will support a more resilient community.

Volunteers assist Randy Hughey with shingles on the roof

Look for the Shelter to arrive later this summer!
Special thanks to the ‘Village’ that made it possible:
Randy Hughey
Dan Sheehan
SHS Contruction Students
Lisa Busch, Lon Garrison and the SSSC
S&S Contractors
Mike Litman, Precision Boatworks
Parks and Recreation, City and Borough of Sitka
Mel Cooke & Bill Thompson
National Forest Foundation, CCLS program
SCS members
The Sitka Community

May 29 2013

Young Growth Timber at Allen Auditorium

SCS was recently awarded another Community Capacity and Land Stewardship (CCLS) Grant from the National Forest Foundation.  The CCLS grant focuses on the use of local, young growth timber and habitat restoration. This grant will sustain and further develop the capacity-building momentum generated from last year’s grant.  One of the components of the previous grant was to provide local, young growth timber to the Sitka High School industrial arts classes.  Students were provided with red alder for building bed side tables, as well as Sitka spruce to construct a bike shelter.  The bike shelter will be finalized this summer and placed at the Sitka Sound Science Center.

Wood drying at a local kiln

Through the current grant, SCS will continue to promote regional young growth markets, incentivize forest restoration and further the Transition Framework by creating an educational opportunity for local youth that focuses on young growth timber for structural and building applications. Currently, SCS will work with a local miller to process local red alder. Red alder has been historically considered a ‘weed species’, however due to its abundance it is quickly becoming valued for use in specialty wood products, cabinetry, furniture and architectural millwork such as wainscoting or molding. SCS is encouraging regional industry integration by building relationships between producers and users. The red alder will become part of the Allen Auditorium renovation project on the Sheldon Jackson campus.  This partnership will also allow for SCS to sponsor several local high school students to work under the supervision of local builder Pete Weiland on the renovation project this summer. Students will be given the opportunity to spend approximately one month working on the Auditorium renovation project and will be partnered with a college mentor. The wood will be provided to the renovation project to produce an installation and demonstration project that highlights red alder as a viable material.  SCS is now accepting applications from local high school students who are interested in participating in this project. Applications are due by July 1 and can be emailed to .

Jan 28 2013

Guide to Tongass Young Growth Timber

This school year, SCS partnered with the Sitka High School Construction Tech program to explore and demonstrate ways that young-growth red alder and Sitka spruce from the Tongass can be used in building and woodworking. The projects that resulted are profiled, along with others from throughout the region, in “Alaskan Grown: A Guide to Tongass Young Growth Timber and its Uses,” published by SCS this month.

DOWNLOAD a version for printing.

Whether you are a builder, woodworker, consumer, or simply interested in the growing conversation around Tongass young-growth timber, the guide profiles projects throughout the region and shares practical insights about the quality and performance of local young-growth in a variety of applications. It also discusses basic challenges and opportunities surrounding the eventual U.S. Forest Service transition to young-growth timber harvest on the Tongass, which was announced in 2010.

Funding for this guide was provided by the U.S. Forest Service and the National Forest Foundation as part of an ongoing effort to support sustainable timber harvest and local markets in the Tongass National Forest. The purpose is to invigorate markets for Tongass young-growth timber products, particularly in Southeast Alaska, by exploring their performance in a variety of interior and exterior applications. By sharing practical information, broadening the knowledge base, and connecting local producers with consumers, we hope to help builders, woodworkers, resource managers and others make more informed decisions about using Tongass young-growth.

Check out the guide to learn more about:

  • Why Tongass young-growth is important right now
  • What the most common species are, and how they can be used
  • Where Tongass young growth is being used, including in the Sitka High School construction tech program, U.S. Forest Service public recreation cabins, and private homes
  • When experts predict economic harvest of young-growth will be possible on the Tongass
  • What it will take to start shaping a sustainable local young-growth industry with the opportunities we have today

We know there is significant interest in the use of young growth, and we believe Southeast Alaska communities can sustain small young-growth timber operations that support local expertise and sustainable economic development. Harvesters, processors, builders, and consumers throughout the region are interested in realizing this vision. We hope that this guide will be one small step toward expanding and informing this conversation.

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