In his Sept. 29 My Turn column, Jerry Reinwand admits to being perplexed by those who oppose the Berners Bay land swap. I would like to explain to him why so many Alaskans are against this exchange.
The proposed legislation would trade away up to 12,000 acres of public land in Berners Bay - pristine shoreline property, treasured by Alaskans for its ecological, recreational and spiritual values - for 3,000 acres of corporation land down by Ketchikan - mostly clearcut and entirely landlocked. Even the Department of Agriculture has gone on record as noting that this would be an unfair exchange for the American people.
Mr. Reinwand states that the land swap would boost the Kennsington Mine and consequently benefit the local economy. Yet the mine does not need this land in order to operate.
Mr. Reinwand tries to take the moral high ground by claiming the land swap will benefit Native Alaskans. Yet at the public hearing held by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the majority of Native Alaskans spoke eloquently and passionately of how they oppose seeing these cherished lands of theirs turned over to corporations for development. Several Native Alaskans expressed frustration at how they have been disenfranchised by Native corporations, how - in the words of one - "the corporations stand between me and my land."
It is true that the Cape Fox Corp. got a raw deal in their land selection. However, trading away the public land in Berners Bay would be an even rawer deal for many more Alaskans.