Why do I think that it's so important to keep our Tongass National Forest wild, beautiful and in the public domain? One reason is that my family's livelihood, just like that of many other families who live throughout Southeast Alaska, absolutely depends on it being just that way. The beauty and wildness of Southeast Alaska and our Tongass National Forest keeps my marine wildlife tour business afloat. And, of course, I'm not the only person here who makes their living off the beauty and bounty of the land and water.
In my business, I have the distinct privilege of sharing, with visitors and locals alike, the broad ocean waters, quiet inlets, wild animals, ancient forests and endless miles of rugged coastline. Kruzof Island, the South Baranof Wilderness Area and the West Chichagof Wilderness Area are but a few of the world-class gems I share with my clients. These are also but a few of the areas under siege by a critically flawed piece of legislation.
If Senate Bill 881, otherwise known as the "Sealaska Bill", is accepted in the halls of Congress, pristine areas that are currently remote and wild will most certainly be developed with lodges, roads, clear-cuts and "No Trespassing" signs. The waters, forests and beaches that currently support a productive and thriving industry and present residents and visitors alike with once-in-a-lifetime wilderness and beauty might no longer exist in the future. I fear that the Sealaska bill, which has spurred divisive controversy in our small communities and has the potential to be extremely detrimental to small businesses, will jeopardize prosperity throughout Southeast Alaska.
Please don't ever take our public lands lightly, for it's the concept of these lands that makes us a great nation. The Tongass National Forest, established by the great Teddy Roosevelt in 1907, belongs to all Americans, including those now living as well as those yet to be born.
Senator Murkowski has been patient, holding listening sessions, hearings, and speaking with constituents. I ask for the same patience in the coming months. We need to make sure that any legislation regarding the Tongass serves the full community and not just one interest. I ask that our Alaskan representatives give the Southeast Alaska communities adequate time to review any new version of the bill. Our lives, communities, and economy depend upon it. I want to keep Southeast Alaska beautiful, not only for the sake of my business, but for our children as well.
Future generations deserve to experience a wild, beautiful Southeast Alaska, they will thank us for it just as we are thankful now.
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