If you support the roadless rule, why not a new use for old Fort Rich?

Posted: Sunday, September 21, 2003

Alaskans who advocate keeping the roadless rule in effect for the Tongass and Chugach national forests, don't understand. They believe misinformation put out by Greenpeace and like-minded organizations. They ignore the people who live in Tongass National Forest and have participated in its management for more than 100 years, making it the outstanding forest it is today. There is nothing wrong in the Tongass that warrants further restrictions.

Supporting the roadless rule in the Tongass, telling Southeast residents that the forest belongs to all of the people, not just Southeast residents, irritates them as much as advocating moving the capital irritates Juneau residents, or closing Fort Richardson irritates Anchorage residents. The capital and Fort Rich belong to all of the people, too.

Wouldn't the capital better serve the majority of Alaskans, and those visiting or doing business in Alaska such as the federal government, if the capital was in a more accessible part of the state? Wouldn't Anchorage be safer if the potential military target of North Korean missiles was moved away from Anchorage, the center of one-half of Alaska's civilian population?

What would be the response in Juneau and Anchorage if Greenpeace advocated moving the capital and closing taxpayer-supported Fort Rich? Anchorage wouldn't disappear as a city, just as Juneau would not disappear if the capital left; just as Ketchikan, Wrangell and other Southeast towns are surviving a reduction of the timber industry. It's a struggle, but they survive and hope a roadless rule doesn't make that survival more difficult.

The people of the Tongass struggle because misinformed people - those working for Greenpeace, other radical groups and those residing in other states - don't know the facts about the forest and its successful management.

One member of the Greenpeace team visiting Alaska is a native of Scotland. He bragged on the Greenpeace Web site that he has been around the world in his 14 years with the organization. This was his first trip to Alaska. He and others in the recent Greenpeace Alaska tour - including its state representative who lives in Anchorage - advocate the Tongass be managed to reduce timber harvest by invoking the roadless rule.

That rule threatens power interties and communities' access, such as a highway to Juneau; improved highway and ferry access from Tenakee Springs, Hoonah and Green's Creek to Juneau; between Kake and Petersburg; between Petersburg, Wrangell, Ketchikan and the Lower 48.

Recently, an Oregon resident, who described himself as an environmentalist and marine science teacher, had a column published in the Juneau newspaper. In it he claimed "over 50 percent of the Tongass in Alaska has been clearcut since 1950." According to Forest Service, the only organization that catalogues each acre of the Tongass, he placed the decimal in the wrong place. The correct figure is "less than 5 percent."

If the roadless rule was invoked for the Tongass, community access in Southeast and economic growth would be seriously inhibited. Look at the Sierra Club's attempt to block a road from King Cove to Cold Bay. It is reluctant to give up a few hundred acres of a wildlife reserve - out of 150 million acres of reserves in Alaska - to insure the safety and economic well-being of 750 people at King Cove, who have been there since 1911, long before there was a reserve or a Sierra Club.

The Exxon Valdez Spill Trustees appointed by President Clinton and Governor Knowles had $500 million to spend for repairing spill damage to fish and game resources. They spent $400 million of it to buy thousands of acres of land to lock up in reserves. The people of King Cove and Alaska should be granted the few hundred acres needed for the King Cove-Cold Bay Road in exchange for the thousands of acres the trustees purchased and added to reserves.

If a roadless rule is invoked there will be a stepped-up move to isolate Southeast communities as is happening to King Cove by self-styled foreign and out-of-state experts and their radical supporters. The Sierra Club already is trying in Southeast by supporting the roadless rule and protesting all timber sales.

We know a person who has lived in the Tongass for 68 years, reporting on it and other state issues for 57 years. That person is more of an expert on Fort Rich, the state capital and other Alaska issues than any of our foreign and out-of-state visitors. He suggests that it is time to close Fort Rich and move the military out into the Aleutians closer to North Korea. And move the state capital to Fort Rich!

Then the Anchorage Daily News can editorially advocate against a fence around Fort Rich to make state government more accessible to the people. And the Voice of the Times can advocate raising the fence to lockup capital-based environmental radicals who advocate locking up Alaska.

Makes as much sense as the roadless rule for the Tongass.

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