Sen. Lisa Murkowski has introduced S. 1466, a complicated bill that is supposed to accelerate land transfers to Native corporations, the state, the University of Alaska and others. In general, finalizing land ownership is a good idea; however, this bill tries to do too much too fast.
The bill gives the Secretary of Interior the authority to give away millions of acres of public land in Alaska, all without public participation or comment. Alaskan wildlands that Congress set aside for permanent conservation would be up for grabs by development-oriented Native corporations. Near my home in Tenakee Springs valuable fishing and subsistence hunting areas as Kadashan and Trap Bays would be privatized. Juneau residents have been flocking to Tenakee for deer hunting this month. If the best deer habitat is privatized and logged, the deer hunting will suffer.
Senator Murkowski is talking about holding a hearing in Washington, D.C., sometime this winter, but she won't be coming to Southeast Alaska to talk to us. Since the bill is very technical, it helps to have groups like SEACC, who has been following it, explain it. Before pushing S. 1466, Murkowski should check with Alaskans about how this bill will affect our lives. Even if she's too busy to come to us, she still needs to hear our concerns with the bill.
Joan M. McBeen