Tongass National Forest Federal Advisory Committee
Timber production and old growth forest conservation were at odds in the Tongass National Forest of Alaska. Meridian successfully mediated negotiations to develop a concrete plan for the forest’s future management.
The Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska contains one of the country’s most pristine old-growth forests. It also sustains local communities with its timber, fisheries and recreational resources. In 2014, the Tongass was mired in conflict, following a federal directive to transition timber harvest from old growth to primarily young growth. For 18 months, Meridian facilitated the Tongass Advisory Committee (TAC), which culminated in a consensus package of recommendations for making the transition. The U.S. Forest Service adopted the recommendations, which are being implemented today.
The TAC, a Federal Advisory Committee, was responsible for guiding an economically and environmentally sustainable transition to young-growth timber management. Their recommendations would need to address critical concerns about tourism, recreation, fishing, water, and other resources. Meridian convened and documented all Committee meetings, conducted assessment interviews, and partnered with forest officials to produce detailed analysis and maps that informed the TAC’s work. Throughout the process, Meridian’s skilled team cultivated constructive working relationships among Committee members and kept the group focused on solutions.
We ultimately helped the TAC achieve consensus on a final recommendations report, a remarkable outcome given early divisiveness. The recommendations were adopted in the U.S. Forest Service’s Tongass Land and Resource Management Plan Amendment. Local leaders asked Meridian to establish and manage a new multi-stakeholder coalition, the Tongass Transition Collaborative, to assure citizen involvement in implementation of the new plan. Meridian continues to support the Collaborative, which serves as an important platform for community involvement and conflict mitigation.