Resource depletion as resource management

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, May 28, 2007

The prevailing political ideology of Alaska has its roots in resource depletion disguised as resource management - from gold mining in the Klondike to fish traps in Southeast Alaska to oil and gas drilling on the North Slope to the 50-year timber contracts on the coastal rain forests.

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There have been ambitious endeavors from the industrial revolution through the Cold War to populate Alaska. The state's vast resources first headed west to Russia in the 1700s; they now head to Asia with profits carefully funneled into the "right" pockets in the Lower 48.

In 1975, I was struck by the notion that the half million Alaska residents who made a limited number of large corporations very wealthy should be the wealthiest half million residents in the United States.

We are not.

Look around. I see people making do with what little they have. Even though Alaska receives the most federal dollars per capita, the political powers that be are very savvy at seeing that congressional pork flows evenly back south or west, as China owns more and more of the United States.

From my vantage point in Ketchikan, I can only report that the local assembly depleted public funds of $25 million intended to support the community in a time of economic transition and delivered it to about a half dozen pockets headed south. The Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce awarded a "local" timber operator its highest award for clear-cutting and exporting our local timber.

Good job, borough. Good job, chamber. Good job, Alcan. No trees equals no local jobs.

Then there's the issue of Gravina Island: Where to begin.

The road to resources? The "bridge to nowhere"? Has any significant portion of the $30 million already spent on the bridge come your way? A small fraction only - maybe.

Even mass tourism, the resource of today, is deferred to the whims of the big boys. Political ideology supports a robust trade in funneling cruise passengers' money back down the pipeline out-of-town and into industry's coffers.

The face of our town is being sculpted by the cruise ship lines for only their convenience.

The face of the land is being sculpted by those who would export our future, and behind them are the mouths who sing their praises in hope that a few crumbs will fall their way.

Good job, Ketchikan. Well done.

Frank Jacob


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