Oppose trading good public land for stumps

Posted: Sunday, July 07, 2002

Trading Alaska wildlands, prime recreational lands in Juneau residents' backyard, for clear cuts, jeopardizing water quality and salmon returns, is the most ridiculous proposal I have heard yet. This is the kind of garbage Sen. Murkowski is dishing out in his recently introduced bill, the Cape Fox Land Entitlement Adjustment Act, which legislates a land exchange between corporations and the Forest Service. The bill would give corporations high-value Tongass National Forest lands in Berners Bay. The Forest Service in return, would get heavily logged lands near Ketchikan. That sounds like a pretty lousy exchange to me for the folks who live in Juneau.

This is a mind-boggling plan, seeming to manipulate our public national forest lands right out from under us. Traded lands in Berners Bay could be closed to public access. Under the bill, these corporations gain rights to log and develop, basically misusing our backyard recreation area with no concern for our local interests.

This is entirely unreasonable and completely disrespectful to the people of Juneau, who like myself, treasure this area so close to home for its high recreational and fishing value; hunting, fishing, sea kayaking, camping, pleasure boating, hiking, you name it. Berners Bay is also the ancestral lands of the Auk Kwaan, containing recognized sacred sites to these people.

This is a bad idea to give away good public lands for stumps. If this bill is passed, Coeur, the owner of the Kensington mine, could dump their mine tailings into Slate Lakes, which would directly affect productive salmon returns to the Berners Bay watershed. This leaves me to deeply question the motives and values of Murkowski and our Forest Service public representatives. I can only liken the collaboration to a gang of thugs with no moral incentive, out to take advantage of the unwary. We better watch our backs, and keep writing letters to our legislators to protect what we know is right, for the people and for the land.

Tom Lee


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