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Sealaska is not a steward of the land

Posted: June 12, 2011 - 8:14pm

My name is Karen L. Johnson, I am a lifelong resident of Sitka and a Sealaska shareholder. I am strongly opposed to S.B.730 and H.R.1408.

Sealaska speaks of heritage, of being a fine steward of the land, of preserving customary and traditional values. Their history speaks differently. It speaks of greed, of picking short-term profit over long-term sustainability. It speaks of resource exploitation without regard of the consequences. It speaks of turning their backs on communities and different agencies that have voiced concerns.

Ask about the town of Hydaburg on Prince of Wales Island that, in 1986, had to fight Sealaska to protect the very watershed that supplied the town’s drinking water. Ask why instead of agreeing to protect Hydaburg’s drinking water themselves Sealaska proposed a deal giving the state the land in exchange for the right to select an equivalent amount of federal land elsewhere. Ask about how despite state agencies warnings, Sealaska logged the Natzuhini drainage on Prince of Wales Island causing numerous landslides dumping silt into spawning streams for pink and silver salmon. Ask why for over a year Sealaska would not respond to Ketchikan ADF&G’s requests for a plan to prevent future landslides in the same area. Ask about citations from the ADF&G and the Dept. of Natural Resources regarding Sealaska’s damage to Deer Creek, a steelhead and salmon spawning stream. Ask about the agreement made by Sealaska in 2006 to pay the largest fine yet obtained at that time for violations of the Forest Resource and Practices Act.

Sealaska is not a steward of the land. As Bob Loesher (former Sealaska CEO) stated in a 1986 Anchorage Daily News article by Hal Bernton “We don’t manage our lands for fish and wildlife resources, there is a different policy on private lands on what is the highest and best use.”

I ask you, are these actions and words of a corporation that will take care of our traditional subsistence and recreation areas? I may be a Sealaska shareholder but my concern is for all residents. Should Sealaska own the land that holds numerous sockeye streams that we rely on for subsistence? Yes, you should be worried about access since Sealaska objected to language in 2008 TLMP which stated “major discretionary land adjustment proposals will be considered if the proposed exchange of lands maintains conservation strategy, ensures public access for subsistence use, and at least a portion of the timber volume from the lands conveyed form the Tongass National Forest contributes to the timber manufacturing industry of Southeast Alaska.”

This bill is the wrong solution. As a Sealaska shareholder, I am not grateful that my senators are sponsoring it. I am not grateful they have let my corporation pick lands outside of the boundaries established in ANCSA. I am not grateful it has caused a huge rift in many communities. Stick to the boundaries established in ANCSA and take into consideration all residents, not the requests of a corporation interested in exploiting more resources. Don’t let Sealaska’s judgment on land management put us all at risk. We are the ones affected by these decisions, we live, hunt, fish, and work here. Listen to us.

• Johnson is a Sealaska shareholder who lives in Sitka.

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