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Alaska 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. 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

NEW: Haines State Forest Management Plan Amendment

The Haines State Forest Management Plan is currently being amended. For more information, please see the Haines State Forest Management Plan Amendment Webpage.

The Haines State Forest contains 286,000 acres managed by the Division of Forestry & Fire Protection 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

NEW: Tanana Valley State Forest Management Plan Revision

The Tanana Valley State Forest Management Plan is currently being revised. For more information, please go to the Forest Management Plan Revision webpage

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 46,592 acres of land located in central and southern southeast Alaska. Many of the Forest's 32 management units are on Prince of Wales Island. Other units are located on Dall, Gravina, Heceta, Kosciusko, Kuiu, Mitkof, Revillagigedo, Suemez, Tuxekan, and Wrangell islands. Two of the state forest units are 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 & Fire Protection (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.

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
Icy Bay State Forest - 34,686 acres
Kenai State Forest - 154,726 acres
Susitna State Forest - 763,200 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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