SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


By Hans Porter


February 03, 2010
Wednesday AM

Bill S. 881 "SOUTH EAST ALASKA NATIVE LAND ENTITLEMENT FINALIZATION ACT" will lay waste to one of the most beautiful places on this planet. The old growth forest with its amazing canopy will be destroyed. The miles and miles of karst formation will not be open to the public. Subsistence resources for several communities will disappear. We will not be able to travel by road. Our water supplies will be in danger or ruined. All this for the short term revenues which will benefit no one but Sealaska Corporation, will not create jobs, and will not provide sustainable resources. It will be all damage and destruction as is typical of this corporation's way of doing business.

This bill will further impact at least 3 communities as follows:

Roads: The bill states that it provides for road access for subsistence and recreational uses, it also notes that Sealaska will be able to eliminate access for a myriad of purposes. These easement roads should be kept open and maintained to promote tourism and private and commercial travel to the northern end of Prince of Wales Island. These roads must allow commercial access as that is how our communities (Port Protection and Point Baker) receive propane and other commercial items, travel for medical treatment, etc. Use should not be restricted to subsistence and/or recreational only with the provision of closing these roads when Sealaska deems it necessary. Labouchere Bay should be kept open to the public and vehicle parking be allowed to continue.

Potable Water Supply: The proposed developmental area that is located behind Port Protection (32, 33, 34, 27, 28, 29, 22, 21, 20, 16, 15, 8, 9, and 10) is the source of the water supply to both Port Protection and a smaller area known as Back Bay. The people in Back Bay have hoses placed in creeks for water collection. Each one of these areas, including numbers that may not be noted contain tributaries, should be left untouched. There are also eagle nests in the areas mentioned above. Our water comes from an unknown source, travels through the limestone caves and emerges from the side of a mountain where it is contained with a gravel cistern and funneled into a catchment tank which provides year-round gravity fed water to the entire village. Our village is one of the few with fire hydrants available to every residence. In addition, there are alarming rates of cancer on Prince of Wales Island linked to logging / milling operations. Logging and fresh water supplies do not mix.

Wild Sockeye Salmon: Proposed areas 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 14, 15, 22, 23, 27, 26, 34, and 35, also planned developmental land, is part of our watershed and an essential migratory and subsistence area for wild sockeye salmon. At a minimum it should be necessary to have an environmental impact study in place prior to allowing commercial harvesting of timber in these areas in particular.

Subsistence: Passage of this bill will eliminate our ability to hunt, fish, gather firewood, pick berries as well as other subsistence uses. Although the bill claims that residents will still be able to use these lands for subsistence, Sealaska historically finds reasons to close its land to private uses through one means or another. It is a federal offense to use native corporation land for subsistence activities as one lady in Klawock discovered after accidentally picking wild berries on native land and was prosecuted by the federal government for this activity.

The northern end of Prince of Wales Island has many SUSTAINABLE economic opportunities from commercial berry picking through land use permits to tourism. Per the Encyclopedia of Earth "In addition, logging and extensive road building in some ecological provinces (e.g., Prince of Wales Island northern and southern provinces) will eliminate up to 70 percent of the total old growth over the next 150 years. Projected logging levels in old-growth systems are expected to result in significant population declines in several species, including northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis laingi), Alexander Archipelago wolf (Canis lupus ligoni), marten (Martes americana), northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus), brown bear, and some neotropical and resident birds. In addition, well-drained karst terrain has been particularly impacted by logging, as well as species rich <> estuarine <> and riparian fringes (protected on national forests by narrow (150-300 m) buffers). Village corporation lands (managed by Native Alaskan corporations) have been particularly impacted by extensive logging."

This bill has potential to cause a great deal of environmental harm. It will limit non-native access to subsistence uses whereas these areas are now accessible by all.

Hans Porter
Port Protection, AK


Received February 02, 2009 - Published February 03, 2010



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