If Congress were to award a prize for the worst piece of legislation proposed each year, Sen. Lisa Murkowski's Cape Fox land exchange bill would be a top contender for 2004. This bill would trade 1,700 acres of mostly clear-cut Cape Fox Corp. land near Ketchikan for 2,600 acres of pristine national forest at the north end of Berners Bay. Additionally, this bill would allow Sealaska Corp. to trade 5,000 acres of subsurface land near Ketchikan for 10,000 acres of surface and subsurface national forest land at Berners Bay.
This is really not a land trade, but a giveaway of a wonderful piece of old-growth forest for a stump farm few people would visit. Hundreds of people in Southeast Alaska are against this bill while the main supporters of the bill are the two Native corporations and Coeur Alaska, which wants to put a mine on the land. These are three corporations that would make a great deal of money on the transfer, but the enjoyment of those of us who visit Berners Bay would be diminished. Sen. Murkowski has been pushing this exchange to further her father's program to put as much of Alaska in private ownership as possible.
Two recent events indicate that opposition to this bill is solidifying. On Sept. 14, Democrats on the U.S. Senate Committee hearing the Cape Fox bill walked out, temporarily stalling a vote; secondly, a strong anti-land-swap editorial appeared in the Juneau Empire Sept. 19. Even so, the bill could pass out of committee this week and go to the full Senate for a vote. If you would like to see Berners Bay remain somewhat as it now is, contact Sen. Murkowski and ask her to withdraw the bill and urge other senators to vote against the bill should it reach the floor.
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