Alaska's State Forests
About two percent of Alaska's state-owned land is in three designated State Forests. In 1982, the Legislature established the 286,000-acre Haines State Forest surrounding the Chilkoot, Chilkat, and Ferebee river drainages and the communities of Haines and Klukwan. The next year, it created the 1.8 million-acre Tanana Valley State Forest that stretches from Manley to Tok. In 2010, Governor Parnell signed House Bill 162 establishing the Southeast State Forest. The following year the Legislature added 23,181 acres, bringing the total acreage of the Southeast State forest to 48,472. In addition to these three designated State Forests, much of the State's public domain land is available for multiple uses, including forest management.
State Forest Management
DNR manages the State Forests for a sustained yield of many resources. The primary purpose is timber management that provides for the production and utilization of timber resources while allowing other beneficial uses of public land and resources (AS 41.17.200). State Forests provide fish and wildlife habitat, clean water, opportunities for recreation and tourism, and minerals.
Haines State Forest
The Haines State Forest contains 286,000 acres managed by the Division of Forestry that include the watersheds of the Chilkoot, Chilkat, and Ferebee rivers within its boundary. Located in a transition zone between the wet coastal climate and the dry, cold Interior, the Forest provides suitable conditions for a diversity of plants and wildlife. The rugged topography ranges from sea level to over 7,000 feet.
The Forest is composed mostly of two forest types; western hemlock/Sitka spruce, and black cottonwood/willow. Lodgepole pine and paper birch occur as minor species throughout the forest. Approximately 42,000 acres of the managed State Forest lands are dedicated to timber harvest with an allowable harvest of 5.88 million board feet per year. Although natural regeneration occurs readily, all large commercial sales have been replanted since the 1970s.
Prospecting and mining have occurred in this mineral-rich area since the turn of the century and continue today. Backcountry logging roads, rivers, and hiking trails provide access to remote areas and abundant recreational opportunities. Hunting, fishing, berry-picking, camping, hiking, snow machining, and skiing are popular activities. Several commercial operators provide tours in the Forest year-round.
Photographers and hunters pursue the Forest's wildlife such as moose, black and brown bears, and mountain goats. Wolves, marten, lynx, wolverines, porcupines, beavers, river otters, and many small mammals live in the region. Trumpeter swans, geese, ducks, and a variety of songbirds are also present.
Tanana Valley State Forest
The Tanana Valley State Forest's (TVSF) 1.81 million acres lie almost entirely within the Tanana River Basin, located in the east-central part of Alaska. The Forest extends 265 miles, from near the Canadian border to Manley Hot Springs. It varies in elevation from 275 feet along the Tanana River to over 5,000 feet in the Alaska Range. The Tanana River flows for 200 miles through the Forest. Almost 90 percent of the State Forest (1.59 million acres) is forested, mostly with paper birch, quaking aspen, balsam poplar, black spruce, white spruce, and tamarack. About half of the Tanana Basin's productive forest land (1.1 million acres) is located within the State Forest. About 85 percent of the forest is within 20 miles of a state highway.
The Forest is open to mining, gravel extraction, oil and gas leasing, and grazing, although very little is done. Timber production is the major commercial activity. The Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest, a 12,400-acre area dedicated to forestry research, is also located within the TVSF.
The TVSF offers many recreational opportunities including hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, hiking, dog mushing, cross-country skiing, wildlife viewing, snow machining, gold panning, boating, and berry-picking.
The TVSF Management Plan was updated in 2001. The update included recommendations for changes to the boundaries of the State Forest. As a part of that package, the plan recommended some of the deletions from the State Forest to be added to the Minto State Game Refuge. The Legislature adopted these proposed boundary changes in 2008.
Southeast State Forest
In 2010, the Legislature designated the Southeast State Forest (SESF) and expanded it the following year. The State's third and newest forest includes 48,472 acres of land located in central and southern southeast Alaska. Many of the Forest's 33 parcels are on Prince of Wales Island. Other parcels are located on Dall, Gravina, Heceta, Kosciusko, Kuiu, Mitkof, Revillagigedo, Suemez, Tuxekan, Wrangell, and Zarembo islands. Several state forest parcels are also located on the mainland. While this State land allowed for forestry activities prior to its designation as a State Forest, the new SESF designation will enable the Division of Forestry (DOF) to actively manage resources for a long-term supply of timber to local processors.
The Division is investing in pre-commercial thinning of previously harvested lands that were logged before the land was conveyed to the State. This investment will reduce the amount of time required for timber stands to reach commercial maturity, improve understory browse for deer, and provide short term employment opportunities. As a State Forest, these lands will be retained in State ownership, thus making long-term investments in management activities, such as pre-commercial thinning, a realistic management option.
Southeast State Forest Planning
The Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry is developing a forest management plan for the Southeast State Forest (SESF). In June of 2010 Governor Parnell signed House Bill 162 establishing the first units of the new state forest, totaling about 25,000 acres. The legislature added an additional 23,000 acres to the state forest in 2011. Alaska Statute 41.17.230(a) requires the Division of Forestry to prepare a forest management plan for each state forest within three years of the forest's establishment. The Division intends to complete the required management plan for the Southeast State Forest in 2014.
The primary purpose of this state forest is timber production (AS 41.17.200). The Forest Resources and Practices Act (FRPA) regulations guide timber harvesting and reforestation efforts to ensure riparian areas, fish habitat and water quality are protected during timber operations. The new forest management plan is expected to reflect the primary purpose for the Southeast State Forest and will be consistent with FRPA.
Public Involvement Opportunities
The Division of Forestry will announce a formal public comment period when the draft forest management plan is available for review. A link to the draft plan will be posted here and copies placed in community libraries. The Division of Forestry is actively seeking public input for the draft plan. If you would like to add your name and address (mail or email) to the distribution list for reviewing and commenting on this draft forest management plan, please contact Jim Schwarber, Forest Planner, at (907) 451-2704 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information please contact Clarence Clark at (907) 225-6619 or email email@example.com.
Maps of Southeast State Forest
Vicinity Map of the Southeast State Forest (PDF 1.2 MB)
Detailed Maps of Southeast State Forest (PDF 9 MB)
Draft Forest Inventory
Interim Forest Management
A forest management plan for the new Southeast State Forest is being prepared. Until that plan is completed and adopted, these State Forest lands will be managed consistent with the management intent included in the following three Area Plans.
Forest Management Plans
A DNR Management Plan guides the use of each State Forest. Plan guidelines determine how to manage different uses to complement each other. Since the State Forest surrounds the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve in Haines, DNR closely coordinates the forest and preserve plans.
Recommendations for Expanded and New State Forests
The 2012 Alaska Timber Jobs Task Force Final Report recommends adding over a million acres of forest classified lands in the Tanana basin to the Tanana Valley State Forest and adding two million acres of National Forest System lands from the Tongass National Forest to the Southeast State Forest.
The Timber Task Force Final Report also recommends seeking the establishment of the following new legislatively-designated State Forests. All proposals will be closely coordinated with local communities.
Copper River State Forest - 435,179 acres
The Final Report envisions the creation of a robust State Forest System encompassing 6,646,000 acres in six state forests. The primary purpose for this state forest system will be timber harvests and the creation of economic development opportunity and jobs for Alaskans and their families.
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