Sealaska should be held to the deal made in '72

Posted: Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Sealaska Corp. lands bill would change the character of Southeast Alaska more than any other land use decision since the Long-Term Timber Sales of the 1950s. Those huge timber sales impacted vast areas of land, but at least most of the logging avoided sites that were heavily used by the public and the land remained in public ownership, hunting and all the other uses we enjoy.

The Sealaska lands bill is different. If the bill is passes, hundreds of the most important and beloved sites on the Tongass would be transferred from a public trust to the hands of a for-profit corporation. Many of the sites are immensely valuable, containing millions of dollars of public investment in roads, docks, second growth thinning, recreation cabins and trails. They are arrayed in a dense pattern across the region and they would have few permanent restrictions to ensure public access or responsible development.

The small businesses that rely on these sites would be displaced. Even more incredible, under the law, Sealaska would have the right to select 1,200 more acres at a future time, without the public's approval. This could easily mean hundreds of more places in corporate hands.

I believe that Sealaska should be held to the deal they made in 1972 and select their lands from within the established selection boundaries. I do not trust Sealaska's claim that they will be good stewards of the land because I have seen firsthand how Sealaska has managed their previous selections - clearcut right up to the property lines in all directions, with no concern for wildlife and only very minimal protection for fisheries.

Take a look at the map of the proposed selections and contact Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich if you have concerns. This is a land allocation issue of momentous importance to the future of Southeast Alaska.

Barth Hamberg


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