SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska



By Myla Poelstra


March 12, 2010

S.881/HR.2099, two highly questionable pieces of legislation that are quickly becoming stark examples of the wrong approach being taken to resolve an issue that cannot possibly be defended by its sponsors as equitable. The responsibilities being avoided or ignored by our representatives only add to the perception that something is wrong with this process. The recent ethics violations by Senator Kookesh during his lobbying on behalf of Sealaska Corp., in which he is Chairman of the Board, bring into focus the tip of an iceberg many now believe exposes unconscionable support for a contentious proposal that will only represent the interests of its proponents.

If this amendment is the best solution available for finalizing ANCSA, why is the entire region up in arms over what it proposes? Why have resolutions in opposition come forward from nearly every town and community in Southeast? Why has Senator Murkowski avoided the field hearings she herself mentioned having, in favor of "listening sessions"? If Sealaska had actually made the extensive effort portrayed by their claim of over 200 local meetings, why were they caught so unaware by resolutions of opposition that came "flying out of nowhere"? Compounding questions clearly make the point; this is the wrong answer for Southeast Alaska.

Salaska Corp. is wrong to demand taking selections in places they were never intended to; areas where others have already lived and worked for decades. How can they expect people not to be upset by the devastating impact their legislation will have on the families who have lived in these "economic development" areas for generations. Their callous disregard for everyone but themselves is wrong as well; demonstrated by their recent commitment to stand firm on their land selections despite overwhelming objections. There is no public benefit in allowing this out of withdrawal area amendment to be considered 39 years after Congress took such careful steps to craft a balance in providing for Native entitlements.

Mr. McNeil is wrong to assert there will be no impact to subsistence access in the economic development areas they have cited in these bills. His recent public comment claiming that, "when you look at the actual map and what the laws says, it doesn't have a negative impact because it will be releasing more lands which can be used for subsistence into availability," amounts to misdirection. How can he possibly justify that statement when they hold no title to lands on isolated Kosciusko Island at this time? What lands will be released to replace the losses suffered by residents of Edna Bay?

How can Sealaska stand on their justification for this legislation by presenting their case that 44% of the areas they have to choose from are under water, when their own publication titled "Fulfilling A 36-Year Promise", clearly states that 85% of the areas they can select from are productive for economic purposes and suitable for selection? How is avoiding taking qualified selections from within the original withdrawal areas a better decision for conservation, than targeting highly sensitive areas on North Prince of Wales and Kosciusko Island that contain federally protected world class cave and karst resources? There are many things wrong with this picture.

Red flags are popping up at every turn in regards to Sealaska's proposal. Little evidence has been provided to support their claims of economic stimulus for the region. On the contrary, there is more reason to believe this legislation will leave Southeast Alaska irreparably damaged. Too many things are wrong with this legislation for it to ever be represented as a balanced approach to finalizing ANCSA. S.881/HR.2099 should die in committee.

Myla Poelstra
Edna Bay, AK

About: "Owner, Sunrise Lodge & General Store; Chairman, Sealaska Response Committee, Edna Bay Community"

Received March 09, 2009 - Published March 12, 2010



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