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 about 48,000 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 recently established Southeast State Forest (SESF). Alaska Statute 41.17.230(a) requires the Department of Natural Resources to prepare a forest management plan for each state forest. The Division of Forestry intends to complete the required forest management plan for the Southeast State Forest in 2015. Upon adoption, the new forest management plan will supersede the current guidelines found in the Area Plans and be consistent with the Alaska Forest Resources and Practices Act, or FRPA.
Public Involvement Opportunities
The Division of Forestry is actively seeking comments on the draft Southeast State Forest Management Plan through April 30, 2015. The draft plan is posted below and copies may be viewed in the libraries of Craig, Ketchikan, Petersburg, and Wrangell or in the Division of Forestry office. Comments may be submitted via the Online Public Comment Form link below, by mail or in person to the Division of Forestry, 2417 Tongass Avenue, Suite 213, Ketchikan, AK 99901, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments must be received by 4:00 PM on Thursday, April 30, 2015.
Community meetings during the comment period may be scheduled at Craig, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Wrangell, Edna Bay, or Thorne Bay. Once dates are known they will be posted here and advertised.
Public Review Draft of the Southeast State Forest Management Plan
Public Notice Letter (PDF 25 KB)
Maps of Southeast State Forest
Vicinity Map of Southeast State Forest (PDF 1 MB)
Petersburg Management Area + Unit Maps (PDF 1 MB)
Wrangell Management Area + Unit Maps (PDF 2 MB)
Ketchikan Management Area + Unit Maps (PDF 2 MB)
For additional information on the plan contact:
Clarence Clark, Southeast Alaska Timber Sales Program Manager
James Schwarber, Forest Planner
Interim Forest Management
Until the required Southeast State Forest Management Plan is adopted, the lands within the state forest will be managed consistent with guidance found in one of the following three Area Plans, depending upon where the forest unit is located.
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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