Senate to hear locals testify on Glacier Bay fishing, mining

Hearing also may touch on subsistence in the national park

Posted: Tuesday, August 08, 2000

Restrictions on commercial fishing in Glacier Bay, a related compensation program and a mineral deposit under a glacier will be the subjects of a U.S. Senate hearing this week in Juneau.

Sen. Frank Murkowski, an Alaska Republican who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, will hold a hearing 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Thursday at Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall.

A federal law last year closed some of Glacier Bay to all commercial fishing and left other areas open to selected fishermen for their lifetimes. Congress appropriated $31 million to compensate people harmed by the closures.

Murkowski is asking some ``very heartfelt questions that have been asked before, but I don't think the National Park Service has heard,'' said Barbara Cadiente-Nelson, one of the invited speakers. Her family has been fishing in Glacier Bay for decades.

``They've taken the bread basket and thrown us the crumbs -- for a lifetime,'' Cadiente-Nelson said.

Also among the invited speakers are Robert Loescher, president and CEO of Sealaska Corp., the Juneau-based regional Native corporation. Loescher likely will bring up subsistence, said company spokesman Ross Soboleff.

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is excluded from the rural subsistence preference that is required on nearly all other federal land in Alaska.

Chip Dennerlein, Alaska director for the advocacy group the National Parks Conservation Association, isn't an invited speaker. He said the hearing would stir up controversy at the wrong time.

The recent law protects one of the largest marine areas in the national parks while allowing fishing in the park's outer waters, he said.

``There is no reason to start a riot over Glacier Bay now,'' Dennerlein said. ``There is every reason to go forward with the opportunity to build community among different factions.''

Murkowski also will hear from invited speakers about the Brady Glacier nickel deposit in the park. The deposit, whose patented mining claim is owned by the University of Alaska, sits under ice about 12 miles north of Palma Bay on the park's outer waters.

The university bought the mineral claim in 1997 for $100,000 to barter for other federal lands, said university spokesman Bob Miller. The university favors a bill sponsored by Murkowski to convey some federal land to the university in exchange for its current federal inholdings statewide, he said.

``We have no development plans at this time for the property,'' said UA Director of Land Management Mari Montgomery. ``This is a hearing maybe to clarify access issues.''

The university doesn't have any land rights for a road or port to bring the minerals to market, said John Quinley, a park service spokesman in Anchorage.

Federal law allows mining in national parks, but mining has to overcome the hurdle of not harming other park resources, he said.

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act promises access to private inholdings on federal land, said Steve Borell, executive director of the Alaska Miners Association.

But, Borell said, ``How successful have people been in gaining access under ANILCA? Almost zip.''

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