Residents of the village of Klukwan say they've gotten a bad reputation over a Native corporation that bears the town's name and wants to spray herbicides in Southeast Alaska.
The Chilkat Indian Village Council, the governing body of the village northwest of Haines, held its annual meeting in April and took a public vote opposing Klukwan Inc.'s plan to spray herbicides on about 2,000 acres on Long Island, near the city of Hydaburg.
Klukwan Inc. President Tom Crandall said the corporation needs the herbicides to control the growth of alder and salmonberries and promote restoration of timber that has been logged on the island.
"Timber is a crop, like corn," he said. "When you're trying to improve the yield you thin, you prune and you use herbicides."
Some Klukwan residents say their opposition to the spraying program has not resonated with the rest of Southeast.
"We get the bad rap because we say we're from Klukwan," said Lani Hotch, a Klukwan resident and Klukwan Inc. shareholder who opposes the proposal. "But we have very little say on what Klukwan Inc. does."
The council resolution states that spraying the herbicides Arsenal and Accord on Long Island will hurt the environment, subsistence resources and public health.
Crandall argues that the herbicides are commonly used in other parts of the country and that there is no proof that they are harmful. He said Klukwan Inc. already is spraying the chemicals on Long Island, just not from the air. Earlier this year Klukwan Inc. applied for an aerial spraying permit with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.
"We have applied for the permit based on what we consider good forestry," Crandall said. "We've complied with every requirement of the state."
Hotch said the village has not yet received a reply from Klukwan Inc. on the resolution and decided to make the decision public.
"Part of the resolution was to take it to the media if there was not a satisfactory response from the board," Hotch said.
Kimberley Strong, a Chilkat Indian Village Council member, Klukwan Inc. board member and candidate for House District 5, said she plans to take a resolution to the Klukwan Inc. board in August to oppose the spraying.
She noted that as many as two-thirds of about 130 Klukwan residents are not Klukwan Inc. shareholders and have no say on the decision.
"The people are constantly bombarding them with, 'What are you doing?' " she said. "But the people have no control over the corporation's actions."
Crandall declined comment on the council's resolution, saying he could not speak for individual board members.
The public comment period for the spraying permit closed earlier this month. Kristin Ryan, director of the state Division of Environmental Health, said the public submitted approximately 350 comments.
Ryan said the division would review all comments before making a decision.
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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