In the early years the Tongass National Forest was plagued by something referred to as "innocent trespass." Because there were few foresters to police the forest, many loggers would simply cut what they wanted. If they were not caught, there was no price to pay, but if they were caught, it became a matter of innocent trespass ("I didn't know I couldn't cut there"), and the logger simply had to pay for the cut trees. For a logger willing to lie, it was about the best situation possible.
I think the days of innocent trespass are gone, but Gov. Murkowski's plan to move the Department of Fish and Game's permitting functions to the Department of Natural Resources will result in less oversight in the state's forests and on private lands - particularly Native corporate lands and University of Alaska lands, which have been subject to brutal clearcutting. This will be to the great detriment of Alaska's wildlife and wildlife-dependent activities, as well as our economy.
Maybe Gov. Murkowski's many years in Washington, D.C., have left him out of touch with what clearcutting in Southeast Alaska is all about. He may need a dose of reality. In that case, our new governor should make arrangements to vacation with his family, friends and a few of his staff on clearcut Native corporation lands. Almost anywhere around Hoonah would do quite well. After enduring the view of stumps and slash largely devoid of game, he might begin to understand that Southeast Alaska's forest needs more protection, not less.
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