Swap really a rip-off

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, September 26, 2003

Dear Senator Murkowski: I am writing to you today regarding S. 1466, the Alaska Land Transfer Acceleration Act. As a commercial fisherman and 20-year resident of Southeast Alaska, I have followed issues related to the Tongass National Forest closely. I have witnessed various proposals by the Alaska delegation in Washington, D.C., to effect changes to forest management. Each time we the American public were told, without exception, that such an approach is needed to stimulate the local economy. Upon closer scrutiny, however, these proposals invariably favor corporations singularly bent on liquidating natural resources, owned by the American public, for the benefit of their private shareholders.

In this case, Sealaska Timber Corporation's historical practices are an abysmal example of forest stewardship. The three and a half billion board feet of old growth forest they have clearcut up to this point, clearly prioritized quick shareholder profits over maximizing jobs for the local economy. Their past practices of exporting most of this timber as raw logs, instead, provided jobs outside Alaska, to Japan and other populations.

After closer scrutiny of the details of this bill, it is clear the public interest will be violated, whether we're speaking of the elimination of public notice, environmental review, or public comment regarding the final entitlements. Of particular concern to me are provisions allowing Sealaska Timber Corporation to select lands currently protected from clearcutting. These lands have been set aside because residents of the Tongass depend on their pristine state for subsistence, commercial fishing, tourism and other aspects critical to the local economy.

When one considers your support for a bill that would promote "significant imbalances in value" (as stated by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's own analysis team) in this exchange process and their self-admitted difficulty in regarding this to be in the public interest, one must come to some uncomfortable conclusions as to your own allegiances.

I am asking you today, to cease your efforts to eliminate the public process regarding the disposition of public resources. Please provide the leadership necessary to reverse the course of economic policy determined at the behest of corporate influence peddling, and the role these corporations play in campaign financing. An excellent place to start would be to abandon your support for Sections 207 and 208 from S. 1466.

Dave Beebe


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