SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


The Need to Stop S. B. 881
By Eric Muench


March 12, 2010

The people of Southeast Alaska need to know what is in Senate Bill 881, sponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski and Nick Begich, and the subject of a meeting Saturday, March 13 at the Borough Assembly Chambers. So far much of it appears to be unknown to most people.

It is not what you have been told by the senators or by Sealaska Corporation. Among other hidden provisions (besides the conveyance of tens of thousands of acres of Economic Development lands) are the conveyance of Sacred, Cultural, Traditional and Historic sites and Traditional and Customary Trade and Migration Routes and also Archeological Sites, Cultural Landscapes , and Natural Features with Cultural Significance . These can be chosen up to 2400 acres worth and approximately 186 of them are shown scattered all over Southeast Alaska on Map Attachments B and C. Another 1200 acres worth of them can be chosen in the future but have not yet been identified in the S.B.881 maps. By the way, none of those terms are defined in the Bill. Imagine, if you will, what a natural feature of cultural significance might be taken to mean. Also there is to be conveyance of an additional 5000 acres of Native Futures sites for Traditional and Recreation purposes. Fifty of these are shown on the Map Attachment D and they can be used for commercial tourist purposes.

All of these sites are to be removed from public lands and become the property of the private for-profit Sealaska Corporation. If this bill passes in its current form the heads of bays and inlets all over Southeast and almost every attractive cove and anchorage and trailhead and will be off limits to the general public. Section 4 (d) (1) (D) (ii) allows Sealaska to regulate access by posting the land. Even though they total just about 8,600 acres, these are choke points that would practically prevent public access to millions of acres of Tongass National Forest.

This bill is being considered by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. But our senators have chosen not face their constituents by holding Committee field hearings in Alaska. Instead they are sending staff for Saturday s town hall style meeting where our comments can be recorded and boxed up and stacked in some congressional store room where the senators who will vote on the bill may or may not choose to see them.

Anyone with an interest in Alaska land use should show up at the meeting and object not only to the bill but also to the lack of proper public process in its consideration and demand that Committee field hearings be held in Southeast Alaska.

Eric Muench
Ketchikan, AK

About:: "Southeast resident since 1962 who wants to keep valuable public use sites in public hands"

Received March 12, 2009 - Published March 12, 2010


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