Marcel LaPerriere submitted a moving testimony at the U.S. Forest Service Roadless Rule Subsistence Hearing in Sitka on November 12, 2019. Marcel is a longtime resident of Southeast Alaska and was board president of SCS for 5 years.
Blake LaPerriere testified on behalf of his grandfather in a symbol of the multigenerational relationship the LaPerrieres have cultivated with the Tongass. We are lucky at SCS to work with both Marcel, Connie, Zach, Dane, Blake, and Nate LaPerriere. Sitka and the Tongass are lucky to have them.
Read Marcel’s full testimony below.
Photo provided by Marcel LaPerriere.
25 of the 38 years my wife and I have lived within the Tongass, we lived on a sailboat. The boat took us to many places within the Tongass that many people aren’t lucky enough to see. In those 38 years, I also accumulated over a years' time doing volunteer work in four Ranger Districts within the Tongass. That work took me into the heaviest logged areas of the Tongass. I can genuinely say I've driven or ridden in a USFS Truck on most of the roads on Prince of Wales Island, and all the roads on Heceta. I’ve ridden or walked many more miles of roads on other islands, and the mainland of the Tongass. Plus, as part of the volunteer work, I've flown by floatplane or helicopter, and even spent time on the Tongass Ranger and other USFS boats. I've plodded through endless clearcuts and hiked through miles of old-growth timber. I've been lucky enough to stand on top of, or the flanks of some of the highest mountains within the Tongass. I’ve also explored the depths of around 100 caves within the Tongass. I was even lucky enough to be part of the first cave diving team in Alaska, when we dove the sump at the back of the Alaska Room, within El Capitan Cave.
What I’m saying is, I’ve seen a lot more of the Tongass, than the typical person who lives here. I've seen firsthand the impact of road building and timber harvesting. I've seen blowdown on the edges of clearcuts. I've seen perched culverts and the damage they do. In deep snow, I've seen how the deer can't navigate through clearcuts to get to the old growth. Hence, I've seen many dead deer on the edges of those clearcuts. In nearly 1000 scuba dives in the waters of the Tongass, I've seen the benthic life obliterated in bays where there was a Log Transfer Facility. I’ve seen firsthand the destruction of soils and streams on the karst lands." Once when I was standing in the middle of a massive clearcut on Heceta Island, the USFS Soils Scientist that was standing next to me said, “It will possibly be another 10,000 years before topsoil can regenerate on this karts.”
I've sat around a table with other members of the Forest Service RAC as proposals are made for the distribution funding to repair or obliterate old logging roads. Further, I've sat on the boards of two different nonprofit conservation agencies that have written many grants for stream restoration in several Ranger Districts.
For 15 years, I worked in four different hydroelectric plants that rely on the rain that falls on the Tongass. So, I know firsthand how vital those hydro plants are to our towns. I also know, as the Roadless Rule stands today, it does not impede those plants or future plants. Nor, the transmission lines that come from them.
Additionally, I've built several homes in Sitka that have been partially or almost totally built from wood harvested on the Tongass. That wood was logged by and milled in several Ma and Pop sawmills spread across the Tongass National Forest. In other words, as long as existing roads are used, I support small scale logging on the Tongass.
As you can see, my days of exploring, volunteering, and working are over. That doesn't mean I still don't care about the future of the Tongass. I care because I want there to be a future for my grandkids and their grandkids. I care because I want salmon and wildlife to be around for many more eons. I care because I know how important subsistence hunting and fishing are to my family, and other families. I care because I know as we humans face the massive challenge of Climate Change, that the Tongass can play a significant role in carbon sequestration. Therefore, I know that the only logical action is the No Action Alternative.
The Roadless Rule commenting period closes midnight December 17th.
Feel free to draw inspiration from Marcel's words!