Irony alert: Tongass, a no-cut zone, will provide the Christmas tree for U.S. Capitol this year

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U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski joined the U.S. Forest Service in announcing that the Tongass National Forest has been selected to provide the 2024 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.

The federal government has shut down the timber economy that once thrived in Southeast Alaska. When loggers in Oregon and Washington were mistakenly blamed for the extinction of the spotted owl, the contracts for Alaska Tongass timber were discontinued by the federal government even though Alaska has no spotted owls.

President Theodore Roosevelt designated the Tongass as a forest reserve in 1902; five years later, it became a national forest and its management was given to the U.S. Forest Service. Small-scale logging occurred in the Tongass from the 1880s through the 1950s, and the first pulp mill opened in Ketchikan in 1954. Five years later, a pulp mill opened in Sitka, and the industry had 50-year contracts.

The timber industry then supported pulp mills 600 ton per day pulp mills and associated saw mills produced hundreds of millions of board feet of lumber every year., employing 4,000 Alaskans.

That entire industry went away starting with federal laws in the 1990s, with the Tongass Timber Reform Act, and the Tongass now produces what is within the rounding error of what it used to be, and there is just one family sawmill left. The 17-million acre Tongass now produces less than what the Gildersleeve logging camp at Whale Pass used to produce by itself. The Chugach produces no timber, even though its the size of the state of New Hampshire, which has a forestry industry employing thousands of people. 

Alaska now has only timber jobs in the dozens, rather than thousands.

But one tree will be cut this year in the Tongass, at least, and it will be shipped to Washington, D.C. at enormous cost.

“An annual symbol of hope and celebration, the tree offers an opportunity to showcase Alaska’s majestic landscape, unique culture, rich traditions, diverse ecosystems, and abundant resources. The tree will symbolize Alaskans’ connection to the lands they call home, as well as the special relationships between our forests and the tribal communities, partners, and sponsors coming together to send this unique holiday gift to the U.S. Capitol,” a press release from Murkowski’s office said.

The first and only previous U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree to come from Alaska was sent from the Chugach National Forest in 2015. This year, the tree will come from the Tongass, America’s largest national forest and untouchable for all intents and purposes.

“I am excited to announce that Alaska’s Tongass National Forest has been chosen to provide this year’s Capitol Christmas Tree to grace the West Lawn. The Tongass is a special place for so many Alaskans who call it home – a place rich with resources and Native cultural history. This holiday season, I can’t wait to share some of the amazing aspects of the region and our state with the Capitol and the entire nation as we welcome The People’s Tree,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. “In 2015, Alaska’s other national forest, the Chugach National Forest, provided the Capitol Tree for the first time. Each forest acts as a hub of recreation and opportunity for thousands of Alaskans, a source of pride across our state. I look forward to once again spotlighting the majesty of Alaskan trees during Christmastime in the nation’s capital.”

“It’s an honor to have the 2024 U.S. Capitol tree come from Alaska,” said Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy. “With over 22 million acres of pristine wilderness, Alaska’s forests not only symbolize the grandeur of our nation but also embody the spirit of resilience and unity. As we prepare to share a piece of Alaska with the nation, I want to acknowledge Alaska’s National Forests team for their tireless work. Congratulations to everyone involved.”

“On behalf of the hundreds of Forest Service employees who call Alaska Home, please know that as Team Alaska, we are overjoyed to be able to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, and to spread joy and cheer across the country,” said Acting Alaska Regional Forester Chad VanOrmer.

“The Alaska Region has partnered with nonprofits Society of American Foresters and Alaska Geographic to create a conservation education campaign directly tied to the project, educating Alaskans and Americans nationwide on Alaska’s National Forests and the multi-use mission of the agency,” the Forest Service said.

“The Society of American Foresters and Alaska Geographic will also support a ‘whistlestop tour’ to communities across the country as the tree is transported from Alaska to Washington, D.C. The campaign is made possible with support from 2024 presenting sponsor, 84 Lumber, a regional retailer, and contributions from companies large and small, and with vital participation of volunteers locally and across America,” the press release said.

Foresters estimate that 450-500 million board feet of timber rot and die in the Tongass every year, now that logging has been essentially banned. In doing so, it gives off carbon back into the atmosphere, instead of being milled and having the carbon stored a houses, furniture, and sounding boards on guitars.

30 COMMENTS

  1. Glad to see Princess working on “important things” for Alaska.

    A Christmas tree no one else can have, for possibly the most hostile administration towards the Christian faith ever, headed across the country at great expense and bigger carbon footprint, to a city too dangerous for people to visit at night.

    Smooth, Princess. Smooth.

    • Your point Avenger, is well meant, however, there is set aside during the season to cut within a designated area.
      The point of the article is valid, there is in essence no industrial volume of timber harvesting. I would suggest, that from this grand, large, and great forest where Tongass Trading company has established, that a folding artificial tree be purchased, from this company and labeled ‘From the Tongass’, sent to Washington with the instructions of using this tree for the foreseeable years. (Cost saving effort knowing too no avail)

      • Yes and we need an environmental study done and the ok from all the federal agency’s.
        We need the courts to tie it up for years.

    • Everything Ms. Downing says here shows insight, and she is accurate. The Tongass NF is about the northern end of the western hemlock range, at least as merchantable timber, but I am not sure about a particular density or specific gravity. Environmentalists are OK with single tree harvests for celebrations but harvesting timber for commerce, even when doing so stores carbon, seems to tie Greta’s panties in knots. It’s no wonder that many young working Alaskans either leave the state for better paying jobs or they remain here and go on the dole, preferring fentanyl stupors and/or intermittent work off the books.

  2. The statist neither cares about costs or the impacts of those costs on who is paying them as long as the statist is not. Senator Murkowski is an example of a full blown statist who has lost touch with the state she was born in and now roosts in the Capitol. We are clearly seeing “The Hunger Games” is non-fiction. Alaska, the greatest natural resource development state in the Union, relegated to an impoverished paradise where its greatness is observed but never served to benefit its residents.

  3. Well. At least the corrupt leaders have less money to fight over and steal. That’s one way to look over the lockdown Alaska been experiencing slowly watching decreased development. Could be worse we could have not only corruption but also tyrannical dictatorship hoarding all the resources wealth while workers for pennies.

  4. What shouts “HYPOCRITE” louder than a politician(s) that celebrates militant ignorance of the ol “Practice what you preach” wisdom!?!..they have definitely had their gag reflex surgically removed

  5. The White House needs to get with the Sustainability Program…artificial trees look great, can be reused year after year and present no fire hazard. And instead of ending up in a landfill somewhere “The Tree” goes back into its storage locker to wait for next year. The carbon savings for just one year might even offset one presidential trip to whatever they set up to replace Epstein’s Island. There’s just no downside, well, except the lost opportunity for low IQ politicians to blather about how great the state is because a tree came from it.

    • I agree. It’s cruelty to trees to send one to DC. Maybe we should get PETT involved. ( people for the ethical treatment of trees. They should ultimately end up as lumber before they die 🙂

  6. Spotted owls are now known to thrive in second, or new, growth forests. And second, or new, growth forests sequester more carbon than old growth forests. It’s amazing how wrong the leftists are on everything all the time, every time.

  7. The final paragraph said it all. 450 – 500 million board feet of lumber rotting instead of providing jobs and keeping housing costs down in Alaska. A travesty, along with the current federal administration. I wish I was as confident as many that the present administration will be replaced after November. Democrats will vote for anyone with a “D” designation. That was proven with Biden. Along with a pliant media shielding him, unless there is a miracle, we will have four more years of misery.

  8. Senator Murkowski and her staff appear to be more on the Democratic agenda, than an agenda for the State of Alaska. Don’t cut the forest, but take the tree?? Rules for thee and not for me????? Just be real, run with the Democratic Party.

  9. The best part is this is the “B” tree, not the White House tree that everyone sees.
    I never even heard of the “Congressional tree” until this lame move by the Biden/Murkowski administration.

  10. Maybe they can have Congressperson Peltola get in a bucket truck & place a recyclable ornament on the very top of it. What a beautiful photo-op for green team.
    Wonder how much fuel these idiots will spend trucking this monster tree across the country?

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