Sealaska should focus on the long-term

Posted: Tuesday, September 01, 2009

I think that Sealaska and other Native corporations, including the landless, should receive the land that is rightfully theirs. After all, the land in Southeast Alaska has been Tlingit and Haida land for eons and it is important that at least a portion of it be returned to its rightful owners.

What concerns me is if the land is clear-cut once it is given to Sealaska. As it did in the past, this will create quick cash for the corporation and short-term jobs for the shareholders. But the best-paying processing jobs will be shipped overseas along with unprocessed timber.

Fishing, hunting and gathering is the backbone of Native culture in Southeast Alaska villages, and this culture depends on an intact, healthy forest. I don't understand the few urban Natives that seem to think that clear-cutting supports their culture.

Let's use Hoonah as an example. In the past 30 years, the forest around Hoonah has been clear-cut and exported overseas at a rate that was unsustainable. Consequently, the best timber is gone and many of the laid-off local stevedores have resorted to the tourist industry for further employment, which also depends on a healthy forest.

In 1981, a petition was circulated asking Sealaska and Huna Totem corporations not to clear-cut a 10-mile stretch of land directly across the bay from Hoonah. The area was an important winter canopy for deer. The area also was important as the "viewshed" to the community. Our petition, along with resolutions by other local organizations, were ignored and unacknowledged.

With proper management, we had enough timber in the Hoonah area to support a couple sawmills and local jobs indefinitely without affecting the culture or viewshed.

I am not against logging, but I am against the destructive ways of the past. I wonder, has Sealaska changed its attitude?

Floyd Peterson

66-year Hoonah resident and Sealaska shareholder

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