April 29, 2004
The exchange, co-sponsored by Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, involves the Forest Service buying the 349 acres of trail, trailhead and parking area, along with mountaintop property. Craig then will use the federal funding to acquire the 221,000-square-foot site (on 10 acres) of the former cannery, located on the waterfront at Third and Main Streets. The site is the prime location for economic, commercial or industrial development in central Prince of Wales Island.
The exchange was modified in the committee to also have the government acquire two additional small parcels next to the existing Craig Ranger Office. The additional tracts will help the Forest Service have more space for administrative functions and alleviate its current situation of having the ranger station being in an in-holding surrounded by private, state and city-owned lands. The main exchange will allow the Forest Service to acquire a prime recreation and hiking trail that leads to Mount Sunnahae, located east of Craig, plus a large recreation track on the north side of the mountain.
The bill also was modified to require the City of Craig to split the cost with the Forest Service of an independent appraisal of the prospective tracts that each will acquire.
Murkowski said she is advancing the bill at the request of island residents to aid Prince of Wales residents diversify their economy to overcome the losses caused by the downturn in the area's timber industry.
"The entire island, the third largest in the country, is in transition. In the early 1980's, the city and Prince of Wales Island were the center of a vibrant timber-based economy that provided thousands of direct and indirect jobs to the Island. Much of that is now gone as a result of unfortunate past federal policies that have devastated the timber-based economy on the island and much of Southeast. This exchange will help Craig in its transition to another economy," said Murkowski, noting the area's unemployment rate often exceeds 20 percent.
"The exchange is critical to the future of Craig. It will provide a great management tool to the Forest Service and increased recreational opportunities for the local and visiting public," said Murkowski. "Given the downturn in timber, it is vital for the economy that the Community of Craig has the opportunity to develop the largest tract left inside its city limits. It is really the only site with the potential to attract industrial or commercial business to Craig," she said.
The legislation also allows for an appropriation of $250,000 to the Forest Service for trail maintenance and rehabilitation on the property. The bill is now cleared to head to the Senate floor for its consideration.
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