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Alaska's Changing Boreal Forest$
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F. Stuart Chapin, Mark W. Oswood, Keith Van Cleve, Leslie A. Viereck, and David L. Verbyla

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195154313

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195154313.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 04 December 2021

Timber Harvest in Interior Alaska

Timber Harvest in Interior Alaska

(p.302) 18 Timber Harvest in Interior Alaska
Alaska's Changing Boreal Forest

Tricia L. Wurtz

Robert A. Ott

Oxford University Press

The most active period of timber harvesting in the history of Alaska’s interior occurred nearly a century ago (Roessler 1997). The beginning of this era was the year 1869, when steam-powered, stern-wheeled riverboats first operated on the Yukon River (Robe 1943). Gold was discovered in Alaska in the 40-Mile River area in 1886, a find that was overshadowed 10 years later by the discovery of gold in the Klondike, Yukon Territory. By 1898, Dawson City, Yukon Territory, was reported to have 12 sawmills producing a total of 12 million board feet of lumber annually (Naske and Slotnick 1987). Over the next 50 years, more than 250 different sternwheeled riverboats operated in the Yukon drainage, covering a large part of Alaska and Canada’s Yukon Territory (Cohen 1982). This transportation system required large amounts of fuel. Woodcutters contracted with riverboat owners to provide stacked cordwood at the river’s edge, at a cost of $7.14 in 1901 (Fig. 18.1; Cohen 1982). Between 100 and 150 cords of wood were required to make the 1400-km round trip from the upper Yukon to Dawson City (Trimmer 1898). Over time, woodcutters moved inland from the rivers’ edges, significantly impacting the forest along many rivers of the Yukon drainage (Roessler 1997). The growth of the town of Fairbanks required wood for buildings and flumes as well as for fuel. In Fairbanks’s early days, all electrical generation was by wood fuel at the N.C. Company’s power plant. From the founding of the town in 1903 through the 1970s, white spruce harvested in the Fairbanks area was used exclusively by local sawmills, which produced small amounts of green and air-dried lumber. In 1984, however, the Alaska Primary Manufacturing Law was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, removing the legal barrier to round-log export of timber harvested from State lands. During the late 1980s and 1990s, many high-quality logs from State and private land timber sales were exported, primarily to Pacific Rim countries. Declining markets ended this trend in the late 1990s, and there have been no significant exports since the market collapse.

Keywords:   clear-cutting, flumes, gold mining, ice bridges, lumber production, reforestation, salvage logging, tree planting

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