Timber! Mental Health Trust land exchange complete


After 15 years of planning, the State’s land exchange between the federal government and the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority was signed on Thursday by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The land exchange will directly benefit the state’s economy and it will secure employment while supporting Alaska’s mental health treatment programs, the governor said, especially for Southeast timber mills.

Also, “Alaskans who are beneficiaries of AMHTA services and programs will be further served thanks to the enhanced revenues the trust will earn. This is a victory for so many Alaskans and I want to thank everyone who worked to make this happen,” he said.

The land exchange process began in 2011 which was conducted in two phases. The first phase was completed in 2019, which protects old-growth stands, viewshed and trail lands near Ketchikan for timberlands. Federal legislation authorized the land exchange, which was enacted into law in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017. The second and final phase was completed through the Dunleavy Administration in conjunction with the congressional delegation and the Trust Land Office.

The easements allow mutual use to the AMHTA and U.S. Forest Service and therefore provide critical access to the new Trust lands while allowing continued access to the USFS lands by the public. The easements will continue to provide access for the Trust to conduct activities that will provide revenue and provide local economic development. With the contracts that are in place, the Trust expects to harvest a total of approximately 201 million board feet of timber from the newly acquired Trust lands.


  1. Please, please make sure the 201 MMBF of timber (using the inflated count of the USFS?) goes to domestic manufacture! Look at the price of lumber at Spenard Builders and other retailers. Please provide jobs for Alaskans and even try to provide jobs for some of the actual mental health beneficiaries. Apparently few remember that when the trust was put together in 1994 the intent and the plan was to by now have the AMHTA weaned off the state General Fund, and to also provide employment to the beneficiaries. (Is anyone even trying to do that anymore?) If this timber is simply sold for export, logged by fallers and choker-setters from OR, with the net stumpage price merely going to the trust then that will be a shame.

    • I think there’s one mill left in SE. This move should help keep them going for a few years, or until the anti-development nimby’s finally manage to lock up every last resource.

        • Evan,
          I think if you were to review this exchange you will find it is much, much more than a government bailout of industry. Take a look for yourself ‘https://alaskamentalhealthtrust.org/trust-land-office/land-sales/land-exchange/’ I’m not sure how this could be seen as federal overreach, can you please explain.

    • A travesty is what it would be. How can contracts for 201 million board feet be considered protection?

      • Maybe you need to talk to some of the folks in SE who live in the communities that are impacted by this exchange. Or take a look at the agreement ‘https://alaskamentalhealthtrust.org/trust-land-office/land-sales/land-exchange/’
        “The purpose of this land exchange is to:
        Protect lands that have significant natural, scenic, watershed, recreational, wildlife, and other public values near communities in Southeast Alaska;
        Create jobs and provide economic opportunities for resource use in more remote areas of the State; and
        To facilitate the goals and objectives of the Alaska Mental Health Trust.”
        Of course if your goal is shutdown the development of every last resource, I could see why you’d be against this equitable and mutually beneficial exchange. AMHT could have simply logged the land they previously held right next to these communities. This exchange was for the nimby’s, not the loggers and not the anti-development crowd. And let’s be honest somewhere north of 95% of the anti-development crowd is ok with development as long as they can’t see it.

        • Well, I certainly hope you’re right about the equitable and mutually beneficial exchange part, but from what I’ve heard, almost all the logs are being put on boats to Asia, with little benefit to SE AK other than to the companies that drop the trees.
          We should consider an approach like Finland has adopted. Nearly every piece of wood that leaves that country is value added.
          Now, that would be a boon to SE. They have an enormously valuable resource that has not been well managed from the value added standpoint. Sound like Big Oil?
          When will we stop giving our highly valued resources away to the lowest bidders? Or the thieves.

  2. Timber should always be sold to the highest bidder. The Land exchange was a great deal for everyone involved, don’t (kayak) insinuate a debate in this deal. the price of lumber is not a relevant metric in this situation

  3. Are they any ramifications regarding the SEAlaska Tribal Land push and this? I have seen the land request map for the landless tribes but not the map for this land hand over. If the national forestry folks are involved then it is plausible that this land could be considered for the landless tribes.

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