Differences of opinion

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Publisher Don Smith and the Juneau Empire give a lot of space to anachronisms like Lew Williams Jr. who would roll back the clock to the '60s, when the big pulp mills controlled 98 percent of the timber industry on the Tongass to the great detriment of the individual loggers. Lew knows better, but he still skews his "facts" in favor of those dead dinosaurs and prays for their return. He gets help from Alaska's congressional delegation, all deeply in the pockets of the resource extraction industries and who never saw a publicly owned acre or preserve they didn't want to mine or drill, or a tree they didn't want to cut unless it was in their own backyard.

This same bunch recently poured many millions of taxpayer dollars down a rat hole in Ketchikan called Gateway Forest Products, now in bankruptcy and whose mill, if ever up and running at capacity, would consume 100 million board feet of timber annually, while providing only 40 jobs at the mill.

Lew and his ilk blame everything on the "radical environmentalists" and "seasonal visitors" who apparently have no reason to exist, or have a voice in Lew's view. He must know that seasonal visitors are very important to Alaska, but prefers to ignore that important fact.

Most "environmentalists" certainly don't feel very radical, but live and work and make a living too, right here in Southeast Alaska, and have been here for many years. We are part of this community, whether Lew approves or not. I know and respect many people in the timber business in Southeast Alaska, and I myself worked in the woods and felled trees as a young man, and my father was in the logging business and my grandfather floated logs down the rivers back East in the early days. You might say I have a certain empathy for the guys in the woods. But, I resent the corporate plunderers who grab everything they can and bail out when things go against them, leaving the loggers and working men to shift for themselves.

A vast majority of Americans feel the same way.

Erik Lie Nielsen


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