ANCHORAGE - The state is proposing regulations that could allow a Native-owned logging company to spray alder-killing herbicides on Southeast Alaska clearcuts to help speed the reforestation of cedar and spruce, which are cash crops.
Klukwan Inc., however, would have to ensure that no herbicides drift within 200 feet of a public drinking water source.
Also required would be a 35-foot pesticide-free zone around other water bodies and another buffer outside that area. The additional buffer's width would be negotiated between state officials and Klukwan based on the soils, the terrain and the type of herbicide to be used.
The rules would apply to any other forestry company wanting to spray herbicides.
Klukwan Inc. is the village Native corporation for the Haines-area community of the same name. Corporate headquarters are in Juneau.
Bill Thomas, a director and former chief executive, defended the proposal, saying Klukwan needs to follow its reforestation plans for Long Island, the heavily logged area the company wants to restore.
Long Island, near Prince of Wales Island, is Klukwan's land, he said.
"It's a trespass if you come onto our land. So where's the problem?" Thomas said. "If people come onto our land, we ask them to leave. It's our liability."
The Haida don't consider themselves trespassers. Before the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act that created companies such as Tlingit-owned Klukwan Inc., Long Island was Haida country.
Two ancient village sites and burial grounds used by Haidas remain on the island, about an hour's boat ride from Hydaburg, said Cherilyn Holter, environmental planner for the Hydaburg Cooperative Association. The Haida still have summer fish camps on Long Island.
Alaska's Environmental Conservation Department released the regulations in late March and asked the public to comment by May 1. After a draft proposal came out in November, the department received numerous letters, mostly attacking the idea of aerial spraying.
Federal agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration have questioned the proposed rule, as have the Haida.
"This ruling could be catastrophic to our traditional way of life," said Becky Frank, president of the Hydaburg tribe.