It's good to see that Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is beginning to recognize that she needs to pay closer attention to people in Juneau as she pushes her plan to give away vast amounts of public land in our community.
Last Saturday Murkowski held a town meeting at the ANB Hall to "explain" to people in Juneau her bill, S. 1354, which would give more than 12,000 acres of the Berners Bay area to Sealaska and Cape Fox Corporations. Her proposal was not well received. Of the 400 or so people who packed the hall, the vast majority came in support of maintaining public ownership of those lands.
The 12,000 acres in Murkowski's bill is more than the total developed acreage on the entire Juneau road system. For perspective, the Mendenhall Valley, from Auke Bay to Thunder Mountain, and Back Loop to the airport is 3,000 acres. Given the history of the two corporations, the future of that land is stumps and "No Trespassing" signs if this legislation goes through.
This bill started out as a measure to break open Berners Bay for the benefit of Coeur D'Alene Mines so Coeur wouldn't have to go through the Forest Service for permitting the Kensington lands. Frank Murkowski saw that if he played a questionable Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act card he might be able to wrest a vast tract of land out of the public domain and hand it to the two timber-hungry corporations who would in turn be friendly to the mining company.
Think about it, 12,000 acres; 18.75 square miles. Nine miles of coastline. That's one hell of a price, torn out of the heart of Berners Bay, for our nation and our community to have to pay, just to give the Kensington and the two ANCSA corporations a shot in the arm. It's an especially bitter pill for the many Juneauites who treasure Berners Bay and have worked so hard over the years to safeguard it for future generations.
Senator Murkowski inherited this bill from her father. I'm glad she came to town and I hope that her eyes and ears have been opened by people other than the lobbyists for this bill. I also hope that she has the good sense to let this bill die.