Not a great vision

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, November 29, 2005

With all due respect to the president of Sealaska Corp., Mr. McNeil, his My Turn column of Nov. 21, "A new vision for our forests and our future," outlines circular logic that, quite frankly, isn't logical.

First, he claims that, "In Southeast Alaska, after fishing, forests provide the most private jobs." This is incorrect by a longshot, as tourism and visitor services provide several thousand more jobs than Forest Service and Native corporation forest jobs put together.

Second, he claims that, "Sealaska has also demonstrated the ability and commitment to properly steward our forests." If that's true, please explain why the overwhelming majority of Sealaska's previously valuable forest lands are now stump fields - biological deserts that provide no jobs or habitat.

Third, Mr. McNeil states that, "Alaskans - indeed all Americans - would benefit from more effective management of our existing public timber resources." That is to say, he wants Sealaska to run the Forest Service's timber program. If Sealaska would be a more effective manager, why then the recent announcement by Sealaska that, oops, they have half the remaining valuable timber previously thought to exist on their holdings? No small accounting error.

And if the corporation is so adept at forest management, why are their 290,000 acres not enough to produce a long-term sustained yield of timber for their shareholders?

Handing management of the Tongass National Forest over to Sealaska would be an entirely different proposition if the corporation had a proven track record of sustaining the land's natural bounty for its people for multiple generations. Unfortunately, the corporation has systematically liquidated its holdings too fast and is now claiming it would be in Alaska's interest to do the same to the Tongass National Forest. A "New vision for our future" could look a lot better than that.

A healthy and realistic new vision for Alaska is one where the million acres of clearcuts in Southeast are restored to functioning systems by local workers paid through the federal subsidy that currently is used to convert more and more functioning forest into futureless wastelands. And leaving remaining forests standing will provide subsistence opportunities, tourism income, recreation and pride for Alaskans that we have such a globally cherished treasure in our backyards.

Kenyon Fields


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