Saturday I attended Sen. Lisa Murkowski's town meeting on Senate Bill 1354. The proposed bill will give up to 12,000 acres of land in Berners Bay to the Cape Fox and Sealaska corporations in exchange for 3,000 acres of their mostly clearcut lands near Ketchikan, plus some subsurface rights. At the meeting I was shocked to see a map of the land in Berners Bay to be traded away. It is nearly 19 square miles of very high-value land, including over nine miles of oceanfront on Berners Bay and Lynn Canal. It is a piece of property far larger than the combined private property that all 30,000 of us live on in Juneau. The land to be received in exchange for this magnificent piece of public property is not only mostly clearcut, it is in several parcels with no oceanfront whatsoever. The Sunday Empire article on the meeting did not mention that the filled ANB Hall was overwhelmingly made up of people opposed to the bill. Many of those who spoke in favor of the bill have a financial stake in seeing it passed. Both sides agree that the land trade is not neccesary for the development of the Kensington mine. This bill is a terrible deal for the public. I hope that people who cherish our public lands will join me in telling Senator Murkowski that our lands are not for sale, and they are certainly not for free.
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