SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


By Alan Stein


February 27, 2010
Saturday AM

If S 881 passes out of a US Senate committee next month, Southeast Alaska and the nation will be worse off. Here is an untold story behind the legislation.

Back in 1977, Sealaska got Congress to change ANCSA, then six years old. The amendment required Governor Hammond to consent to the transfer of 76,600 acres in Yakutat, and others in Saxman. Also removed from were Sealaska lands around Angoon.

Byron Mallot, chief of Yakutat and powerful Board Member of Sealaska, pulled off a coup. In one sentence, Sealaska insured the lands around the communities of the chairman and A l Kookesh were saved from logging.

But by saving Angoon and Yakutat from Sealaska's leave no tree standing policy, Chairman Mallot concentrated the logging around the remaining Native villages of Hoonah, Klawock, Kake, and Hydaburg.

In 1978, Hammond consented to Yakutat lands being transferred to Sealaska only if they exchanged these lands to the US Forest Service. As far as I can tell, nothing happened until 2002 when negotiations began with the US Forest Service. Yakutat lands are available to this day for transfer to Sealaska ownership and an exchange with the US Forest Service is still possible.

The Forest Service offered Sealaska lands "of equal value" in exchange for the lands in Yakutat. The Forest Service offered: Cleveland Peninsula, Sitko, Neko, E Gunnick Bays,Seal and Chicken Creeks, Alice Lake, and E Spaski, Hoonah, Hobart and Whitestone. This fair offer would have spread the remaining impact of Sealaska's logging over the whole Tongass rather than concentrate it on any one island.

Sealaska rejected the offer. Instead, they began to push for legislation to get in Congress what they could not get from the Forest Service. S 881 is the latest reincarnation of the legislation.

Instead of seeking a mere land exchange for the 76,600 Yakutat acres, Sealaska saw an opportunity to reach way beyond anything Congress gave in 1971.

Now 39 years latter, Sealaska wants Congress to give it parcels in bays up and down the 350 miles of the Tongass, and Federal land developed at huge cost to US taxpayers , most of which are in the hunting and fishing grounds heavily used by the public and none of which were contemplated by Congress long ago.

This bold over-reaching beyond the scope of ANCSA is what has ignited a fury among the people living in bush Alaska who made investments of hard labor and money to live next to Federal Land protected by the US Forest Service. A bill so far reaching, should be aired in public. Yet Senator Murkowski has closed her ears to appeals of her bush constituents for field hearings.

A public hearing was held in DC. None are scheduled for Alaska, despite resolutions from Craig, Petersburg, Port Protection, Pt Baker, and Edna Bay, (Sitka votes today). A measure that impacts so many lives throughout SE Alaska deserves to be aired in front of Senators Murkowski, Begich, and Bingaman--- instead of aide Chuck Kleeshute and his tape recorder .

To refuse to hold hearings and put the brakes on the rush to complete this land grab is to reinforce the public perception of Congress as an institution beholden to special interest.

To allow Sealaska to log on the northern end of Prince of Wales, Kosciusko near Edna Bay, and on Tuxekan islands would upset tens of millions of dollars of Forest Service planning, exterminate wildlife in those areas, upset the hard labor of its residents, and demonstrate Sealaska logging can only go forward with large taxpayer subsidies.

What the Russian princes named Koscousko, the Natives Tuxekan, the Spanish Sumez, Lopez, and Noyes, and the American, George Davidson, of our first coastal survey Long and Dall Islands Captain George Vancouver christened The Prince of Wales Archipelego choosing the honorable name of the next in line to the British throne, because this wide cluster of islands was the most magnificent collection Captain Vancouver observed when charting what is today SE Alaska.

Vancouver honored the island where I once homesteaded, because of its majestic beauty, infinite variety, richness of timber, abundance of wildlife, and spiritual completeness. Senators come and see it.

Alan Stein
Mendocino, CA


Received February 26, 2009 - Published February 27, 2010



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