Independent loggers endured tremendous hardships due to pulp companies who planned to run them out of business. Tlingit Indians witness their traditional hunting grounds disappear. Brave biologists warn others about the destruction of significant fish and wildlife habitat. Even youthful lawyers and activists observe the transformation of their lives relative to the battle for the Alaska rain forest. Although Tongass National Rain Forest seems to have a ceaseless supply of timber, an overabundance of wildlife, and a plethora of sustainable hunting grounds, the timber has its own unique timeframe, including: a mass quantity of loggers, depleted amount of timber, and diminishing amount of wildlife and habitat of hunting ground.
Kathie Durbin’s vivid recollection of the insightful interviews she held conveys detailed descriptions of the “revealing history of corporate harvesting of America’s largest, and last, great rain forest”( Stephen Haycox, University of Alaska – Anchorage). Durbin incorporates her sources through her bibliography as well as written resources, including: the Ketchikan Daily News, the Anchorage Daily News, the Sitka Sentinel, Ravencall, and Alaska Geographic. These sources depict insightful passages, which enhance readers’ understanding of this “David and Goliath scenario”. Decades pass incurring detriments as well as triumphs as the independent loggers, or “David”, against the two pulp companies, or “Goliath”, in this particular situation.
Despite the somewhat tedious information that Durbin includes to paint this graphic story, her descriptions make lasting impressions, which help to shape the negative imbalance of power and how it corrupts the organizations’ sensitive balance. If the “squeaky wheel” had continued to get oiled, no one would have realized the vast deficiencies that had subtlety arose, causing much dismay to the independent loggers. The roller coaster effect opened eyes, which spread alarm region wide and caused a large number of entities to step up and confront the “villains”. When two executive directors of the pulp mills started catching on to the wrong doings that were occurring, there recognition of the foul play cost each of them there jobs. The vivid documentation proving the pulp mills’ criminal actions mysteriously disappeared when their storage office caught fire. The documentation implicated the sneaky transactions between the two pulp mills and their interactions with each other to cut their prices of lumber in half. This created a tremendous setback for the loggers in their fight to protect their existence in that environment.
Not only did Durbin include graphic descriptions of the detrimental impact these clear cuts caused on the beautiful scenery in Southeast Alaska, but also she included pictures which made a lasting impression. Viewing some of the barren, empty patches in the previously flourishing Tongass National Forest caused dissatisfaction for visitors as well as Natives. Clear cuts made an imbalance in the ecosystem such as: the clear cut patches in particular areas leading to landslides due to the unstable ground which was left behind, when the landslides resulted from the few remaining trees, the erosion destroyed the streams where the many different types of salmon were spawning; thus causing the depletion of salmon numbers as well as the starving bears in those surrounding areas. Despite the Department of Fish and Game’s “protected” was a misnomer, this rule of “protected” areas “was vulnerable to political pressure, however, as Cornelius learned the hard way” (Durbin, 1999, pg 140). Don Cornelius was a game biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He frantically attempted to keep up with the logging of the Native corporation on Prince of Wales as well as the surrounding islands. It was his job to review the check and balance system between landowners requirement of filing with the state prior to the logging, then following up with field checks regarding their logging practices on the ground. From the beginning it was an uphill battle.
The pulp mills hired loggers from out of state. They made promises of job opportunities to Natives in the area, then did not follow through. Natives in Angoon were furious with the destruction of their hunting grounds, since they live off subsistence hunting and fishing. Since there were logging camps on the out skirts of Angoon, poaching occurred quite frequently due to the loggers not caring about rules and regulations they should be following due to the expedited fashion they were conducting their business. Rules made no impact here. The clear cutting destroyed vast acreage of hunting and fishing grounds all through the area surrounding Angoon. The long term impact made it challenging for survival of the Native people there, who depended on the fish and the wild life to live.
The two pulp mills should have complied with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game rules and regulations in order to protect all concerned parties. Their actions were inexcusably detrimental to not only the environment, but also the people. Not caring about anything but money, these pulp mills actually devastated the entire Southeast region causing harm and malice to everything around. Dollar signs meant everything to the pulp mills, yet nothing to the environment. These businesses yielded more distress due to the selfish nature of their actions. With limiting time for growth, trees were being cut faster than they could grow, one piece of land was only good for the pulp mill for that session of logging because it takes one-hundred years for it to be re-logged.
“David,” or the independent loggers fought a battle lasting longer than two decades and obtained a well-deserved victory. In the end Louisiana-Pacific Corporation sold the two saw mills and finally left Alaska for good. Meanwhile “Goliath,” or the pulp mills suffered an on-going series of law suits which put them out of business. This shows that hard work and determination pays off in the end.
After reading this novel and living in Ketchikan, I personally relate to the selfish actions of big organizations and the repercussions arising from acting without thinking of the outcomes of major decisions. Watching independent local loggers struggling to survive due to the overwhelming number of out of state loggers taking their jobs and working for less pay, having worked in a small saw mill, I realized that numbers don’t matter when it comes to quality. It should always be quality versus quantity.
Durbin, Kathie. Tongass: Pulp Politics and the Fight for the Alaska Rain Forest. Corvallis: Oregon State UP, 1999. Print.
Filed under: Wildlife