Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Senate Bill 340 and Rep. Don Young’s rather similar House Bill 740 would transfer some of the highest value old-growth forested wildlife habitat on the Tongass National Forest to Sealaska Corporation for clear-cut logging. These bills are not necessary to fulfill Sealaska’s land selection under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANSCA). They are a poor conservation tradeoff and are certainly not in the American public’s best interest.
Sealaska’s track record for fish and wildlife habitat protection has been woefully inadequate. In the words of Aldo Leopold, an American conservation legend, “We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
As a professor emeritus at the University of Alaska, former fisheries biologist at Juneau’s Auke Bay Lab and long-term Southeast Alaska resident, I am familiar with fish and wildlife habitat needs in the region. The provisions of SB 340and HB 740 come nowhere close to requiring the level of fish and wildlife habitat protection necessary to maintain healthy, sustainable fish and wildlife populations. These bills should not be passed by Congress.