The University Lands Bill unabashedly transfers large swaths of Southeast lands to the university without any provisions for responsible use. Further, it entirely disregards the Department of Natural Resources' Northern Southeast Area Plan (NSEAP) for land use designations that considered traditional uses, public interests, habitat, and resource management.
According to DNR's own plan, the 2002 NSEAP was intended to manage these state parcels over the next 20 years; the state lands surrounding Pelican, my home of 15 years, are primarily designated "Public Recreation and Tourism - Undeveloped," which means, by DNR definition, that the land should remain in its natural state and cannot be sold to individuals. DNR, however, characterizes the University Lands Bill as "focused primarily on lands that had been designated settlement, general use, or general public recreation in DNR land-use plans." If Pelican's parcels are representative of the other Southeast selections, then this statement is entirely facetious. Curiously, "general public recreation" does not exist in the NSEAP as a land use designation.
This bill clearly undermines any planning and public process provisions in SB 7.
The university would be compelled to manage these lands for the highest economic yield, and there is nothing in the bill that requires them to account for habitat, traditional uses, adjacent land use, or community planning. In spite of the bill's adding triple the acreage of Pelican's municipal boundary to private holdings; it allows for no community comment or area planning with which to prepare for this potential impact.
Finally, I am a business owner whose business depends on a seasonal tidelands lease for our small fish-buying operation. Shoreline, Inc. has been buying troll salmon from the fleet for over 20 years at Ewe Ledge. Last season our business bought fish from over 100 trollers; things are tough in Pelican, and sadly this represented more commerce than all other Lisianski Inlet commerce combined. This bill would turn this land over to private interests and dislocate this historic tideland commercial fishing use.
This bill will not recreate Pelican's, nor any other struggling Southeast community's, economy. Land sold to the highest bidder will not go to locals trying to figure out how to make a go of it. It will go to deep-pocketed commercial interests with whom small, local businesses can't compete.
Let's find a better way to fund higher education so our students will have a place they want to call home upon graduation.