The state of Alaska approved a new permit Wednesday for a private trust set up by Klukwan Inc. to spray herbicides on nearly 2,000 acres of second-growth timber on Long Island.
The decision prompted outrage from nearby Hydaburg on Thursday.
The Long Island Trust, an entity set up by Klukwan, a Haines-based Native corporation, withdrew a similar permit application last year to make revisions. The original spray permit was approved by the state in 2005 but was put on hold after a legal challenge by a coalition of environmental activists, fishermen and health organizations.
"It's just one more step in the process," said Tom Crandall, the president of Klukwan Inc. The corporation set up Long Island Trust - an entity with the same board and shareholders as Klukwan Inc. - to "farm trees," Crandall said.
Hydaburg Mayor Thomas Morrison said he and other opponents will engage in nonviolent civil disobedience if the spraying goes forward.
"If you are going to spray, spray us," said Morrison, adding that he will try to exhaust all other possible remedies before nonviolent protest.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation permit is subject to a 30-day appeal period that expires March 30.
Klukwan Inc. hopes to use helicopters to spray 1,950 acres with the herbicides, curbing salmonberry and alder growth, according to state officials.
"Herbicides have been used in Alaska for many, many years," Crandall said.
Morrison said Hydaburg and Ketchikan residents who use the area for subsistence - particularly fishing and berry picking - are worried about harm to their resource.
Neither of the pesticides - sold under the brand names Accord and Arsenal - or the two chemical additives allowed by the permit will bioaccumulate in organisms, responded Kim Stricklan, the state's pesticide program manager.
The major change to the permit is the addition of the chemical additives. One is vegetable oil-based and the other is petroleum-based. Both are used routinely in other states, including California and Washington, Stricklan said.
She said the state also added new stipulations in the permit that will require sediment sampling and prevent spraying during the eagle fledging season. A large buffer zone is required around streams, she said.
Any chemical that can kill an alder has to be "an awfully strong substance," Morrison responded. "Everything in the uplands ends up on the beaches," he said.
Morrison said Klukwan's corporate leaders should "get off their dead asses and do some thinning" instead of spraying.
Hundreds of people wrote letters to the state environmental conservation department over the last couple years asking it to deny the permit.
Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.