New threats to resources

Posted: Wednesday, July 18, 2001

For every step forward we make in protecting our public resources there are new threats of selfish exploitation of corporate gain.

Our Alaska delegation never saw an acre they didn't want to mine, a wilderness preserve they didn't want to drill or a tree they didn't want to cut - unless it was in their own backyard. Seldom do any of them lift a voice in favor of a sane policy of protecting our public resources. They are bought by their big corporate contributors. And, our governor often pitches in to help them. Alaska is a disgracefully spending scarce public dollars to lobby in Washington on behalf of special interests.

After 10 years of work, millions of dollars of public money and 20,000 public comments we got a Tongass Land Management Plan we could almost live with. It protected special areas important to locals and visitors alike. Places like the Upper Tenakee Inlet, Port Houghton, Castle River and the Cleveland Peninsula to name a few. The plan provided timber for local operators. Only problem was it did not provide enough to suit the big multi-national timber corporations whose sole interest is the bottom line, and damn the consequences. Now that plan, and incidentally, the public will, is under assault.

I don't object to timber cutting on our national forests. In fact, I am much in favor of a limited and sustainable harvest to provide jobs and value-added wood products industries for our region. Trouble is, the big guys always want to come in and cut everything, and then ship the trees, and the jobs off somewhere else, often overseas. Historically, Alaska has had less than five jobs for each million board feet of timber harvested, while the state of Washington generates some 17 jobs for every million feet. Is something out of balance here?

The current administration is very "pro-development," meaning in favor of their corporate contributors. Public resources are up for donation to the pillager by our politicians in order to fuel their own political dynasties.

And we will surely lose them unless we speak out.

Erik Lie-Nielsen


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