Bertrand Adams Sr. of Yakutat has expressed concern that Gov. Murkowski recently branded the Yakutat Tlingit Tribe as extremists (letter of Sept. 9). This is a mistake, albeit an understandable one, and the governor's office wishes to publicly clarify this matter.
The governor's column referred to extreme environmental groups who have consistently opposed virtually every substantial Tongass National Forest timber sale over the past decade. These groups argued, during the Tongass planning effort, that they opposed large-scale operations such as the pulp mills in Sitka and Ketchikan, but supported locally owned, value-added, smaller-scale wood processors. Yet they worked hard to prevent the successful operation of the new locally owned veneer facility in Ketchikan, and have litigated sales that would have supplied logs to the family-owned mills in Klawock, Ketchikan, Wrangell and Hoonah.
The reference in the governor's column was to Earthjustice, which has long been in the forefront of the effort to eliminate the timber industry in Southeast Alaska. This organization, with its close association with the Sierra Club, does, in our opinion, merit the label "extreme environmental group." We regret that the Yakutat Tlingit Tribe's choice of a law firm in this instance resulted in them being tarred with the same brush, but we do not apologize for recognizing and identifying the agenda of the lawyers at Earthjustice.
The Yakutat Tlingit Tribe may legitimately be concerned about the proximity of the Yakutat timber sale to the Situk River. But their concerns to prevent damage to the Situk fishery could easily have been addressed by prescriptions and best-management practices during harvest. It was not necessary to obtain an injunction against the timber sale to achieve that objective. Earthjustice, however, with its different agenda, sought and achieved a different end. By convincing the court to halt the harvest, they caused severe economic harm to the logging and mill companies' employees and their families.
Information officer for Gov. Frank Murkowski