The Associated Press article that ran in the July 8 Juneau Empire explains only one part of the Sealaska legislation issue and the article does a poor job of that.
The article states that Miller wants the legislation withdrawn for further review. If Miller had contacted the Alaska Forest Association, we would have explained we have been working in support of this legislation for at least seven years and time is running out for the people whose jobs are at stake. We cannot afford further delay.
The article also states that eight communities "most affected" by the legislation have sent a letter opposing the bill. The eight communities that oppose the legislation represent less than 2 percent of the population of Southeast Alaska. Five of these eight communities started out as logging communities (six if you count Cape Pole which is not even mentioned in the state's listing of communities). The timber industry built those communities and the surrounding road systems. We respect their right to object, they have not been ignored. Sealaska has revised their selection proposals several times in an effort to avoid conflict and Senator Murkowski has made many changes in the legislation to respond to the concerns raised by many communities, including the few that are objecting.
We are glad that Joe Miller supports the transfer of federal lands to Alaskans because he is correct; many of our communities are suffering severe economic hardship that could be easily resolved through better access to our natural resources. The federal government controls over 90 percent of the land in Southeast Alaska and they have reneged on their promise to provide an adequate timber supply from those lands.
It appears that Miller and others have allowed themselves to be duped by the widespread rhetoric and misinformation from environmental groups who oppose this legislation and just about every other responsible development project in Alaska. We hope that in the future, the timber industry is consulted on this issue because we are the ones who are most affected by this legislation.
Executive Director of the Alaska Forest Association