One of the nice things about living in a town the size of Juneau is that we meet people with different opinions whether we like it or not. With so many viewpoints on so many topics we have plenty to keep us busy during the long winters. Another nice thing about Juneau is that we live so close to Berners Bay. It's a place where we can find common ground, because it's a place that we all care about. Nearly everyone I know has had a wild adventure in Berners Bay - either hunting, fishing, camping, kayaking, or sitting in a boat watching the eulachon run. These experiences are possible because the land is publicly owned and open for multiple uses.
I thought that people in town would like to know about a Senate bill Lisa Murkowski introduced that would trade roughly 12,000 acres of public land near Berners Bay for approximately 3,000 acres of scattered parcels of private land near Ketchikan. Essentially, much of the land surrounding Berners Bay would become privately owned, making it inaccessible to the local people of Juneau. The land we would get in exchange amounts to several little pieces of clearcut land near Ketchikan. This doesn't seem like a fair trade.
The bill aims to compensate Cape Fox and SeaAlaska Corporations for ANCSA land selections that were said to be unfair. However, rectifying the situation by swapping one of Southeast Alaska's most special places for land that has already been harvested hardly seems wise. Surely a more equitable solution can be found.
If you are opposed to this land trade, please take action to make your opinion heard. Senator Murkowski is hosting a town hall meeting this Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at the A&B Hall. You can learn more about this bill at www.senate.gov by doing a search for S. 1354 under the "legislation and records" page. A similar resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives. You can view it under the "find a bill or law" section of www.house.gov by searching for HR 1899. A hearing on the bill in the House of Representatives is scheduled for this week.
Cheryl Van Dyke
Juneau Empire ©2015. All Rights Reserved.