This is a follow-up letter to a previous letter that I wrote this spring. The issue is the aerial pesticide spraying of alders and salmonberries on Long Island in Southeast Alaska, proposed by Klukwan Inc. Ninety-nine percent of the total comments, including two rounds of community hearings and testimonies, that the Department of Environmental Conservation received were against aerial pesticide spraying, and yet the DEC seems to favor pesticide-herbicide use by Klukwan Inc.
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Our island community on Prince of Wales chose years ago not to spray the roadsides for brush and weed control but to use cutting methods to protect our environment for berry picking and the groundwater from chemical runoff.
The contamination of the plants, groundwater and the runoff into spawning streams and the sea are major problems. Alaska has gone to great lengths to market "Wild Alaska Salmon" from a clean environment. In economic terms, this is an important image for our state to present.
There have been only two cases of aerial pesticide spraying in Alaska, both for potato blight in Palmer in the 1990s. Other timber companies are watching this issue. If the permitting is made easy for Klukwan Inc., it is possible that other companies will be able to obtain permits to do the same.
Also, alders add nitrogen to the soil. They are one of the few "nitrogen-fixing" plants. This gives the future growth of timber a much healthier medium to take off in. For those of us for whom subsistence is very important for our diet -including berries, fish or deer that browse in this habitat - we must protect these sources of food. This is not a "green" issue. It is a vital human issue. It is a health issue, and it is an economic issue.
There are many organizations against aerial spraying. They include, the United Fisherman of Alaska, Alaska Trollers Association, Alaska Longline Fisherman's Association, Southeast Alaska Gillnetters Association, also the tribal governments of Hydaburg, Kasaan, Craig, Klawock, Ketchikan, Petersburg, the Tlingit-Haida Central Council and the Chilkat Indian Village of Klukwan. Also included are Alaska environmental organizations and health care providers. These groups have tried to stop aerial spraying of pesticides in many ways, and as a last resort, some have filed a lawsuit that challenges the DEC permit.
If concerned, please contact your representatives and legislators to take action.