Needs of real people should trump altruistic philosophy

Posted: Tuesday, March 09, 2010

I have given myself a few days to reflect after a round of letters and My Turn articles addressing the competing issues of creating and maintaining a robust economy in Southeast Alaska, as well as the "push-back" by the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council and its anti-development environmental partner agencies.

As a resident of Southeast Alaska for nearly 50 years, I continue to hold a deep belief that responsible development and good stewardship of the land are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I am a member of a family that has roots in this beautiful region spanning five generations, and also has a previous history of relying on the land for much of the family subsistence.

I have also had a unique opportunity to observe first-hand the years of "revolving door" immigration of young, enthusiastic, idealistic, grass-roots individuals who have arrived here to "save us from ourselves" at SEACC and similar organizations. These individuals have generally moved into these jobs without any concept of what it takes to set down permanent roots and provide for a family, or to make an actual positive contribution to a local or regional economy.

For them and their organizations to not understand the terrible effect that they have had on the lives of real people is incredulous. When you don't know the people who have lost their jobs due to SEACC's efforts over the years, and are not connected to them in their communities, it is perhaps easy to believe that saving the earth is truly the highest calling.

As noted previously, creating well-paying jobs and responsible development are very compatible, and I believe that the needs of real people should trump an altruistic philosophy.

The people who have been negatively affected are real. Many have been forced to move away from Southeast Alaska. Many of these have included the young adults who were raised here and have grown to love the land in the same way as their parents and grandparents have before them. But they now see that they may not have a future here and thus have needed to find their way in other parts of the country.

How unfortunate for all of us that those who understand and value the region more than anyone have been excluded from the opportunity to settle here and raise families that share those important values.

The declining Southeast population during the past two decades is a well-understood statistic. Gone are the good resource jobs that have traditionally sustained our economy. In the end, it is all about jobs. I knew that much of what happened at SEACC was financed from outside the state, but even I was surprised at the remarkable ratio of outside support compared to local contributions that was revealed in a recent letter to the editor.

I am pleased to be associated with the First Things First Foundation that has organized out of necessity to provide the balance and a voice of reason in this ongoing debate. I continue to be optimistic that reason will prevail, and will result in well-being, security and a bright future for our children and grandchildren.

• Rosemary Hagevig lives in Douglas.

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