It is refreshing to see that the Juneau Empire, which supports the current Kensington Mine design, has reached the same conclusion that those opposed to the mine have reached. The Empire's Sept. 19 editorial explains why the Murkowski bill to privatize 10,000 acres (others report it is more like 12,000 acres) of highly valuable oceanfront national forest land in the Berners Bay area does not make economic sense.
The Empire stated well the clear fact that trading away largely pristine wildland at Berners Bay for privately owned stumpland near Ketchikan is not a value-for-value land exchange.
It is abundantly clear that in both monetary and non-monetary terms, the majority of Juneau residents would be the real losers if this bill is passed. The reason is that the land to be privatized is one of the most water-accessible scenic places in the Juneau area for public camping, wildlife viewing, and hunting. Under this bill, thousands of acres of public land would become off-limits for public use. Oh, I've heard it argued that Sen. Murkowski may be willing to amend the bill to provide for some very limited public access. However, any such changes to the bill would be no more than cosmetic Band-Aids. They would not change the fundamental fact that this bill would prevent the Juneau public from the unlimited access that it has enjoyed since before Alaska statehood.
The bottom line is that the Berners Bay-Cape Fox land exchange bill that then-Sen. Frank Murkowski first pushed for and which his daughter, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, has again introduced would not be in the public interest.
One of my most memorable experiences was camping with my family in the Slate Creek Cove watershed of Berners Bay and seeing Alaska brown bear, black bear, beaver, moose, and mink. We had this experience in the area Sen. Murkowski wishes to take out of public ownership. Anyone who would like to see the possibility of such an experience protected for their kids or grandkids should let Sen. Murkowski know that she needs to withdraw her Berners Bay-Cape Fox land exchange bill.
Whether you're for or against the Kensington Mine, this bill is not necessary for its operation and is a raw deal for the public.
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