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Public Land Sales A Bad Idea Says Conservation Group


May 02, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - On Monday, May 1, 2006, the Tongass Conservation Society submitted comments to the U.S. Forest Service strongly opposing the sale of public lands in order to fund the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, a proposal put forth by the Bush Administration.




The Forest Service failed to consider the high cultural, recreational, and historical values of these places before labeling them ready for potential sale. Local governments, private landowners, subsistence users, and conservation organizations were not given an opportunity to participate in the selection of parcels, said Gregory Vickrey the Executive Director of TCS.

Within the Tongass National Forest, 96+ acres are slated for sale should this proposal move forward. To highlight the significance of some of these parcels, Tongass Conservation Society points out the following:

Shakan Strait, Prince of Wales Island

This proposed land sale lies east of Hamilton Island in Shakan Strait, in close proximity to the Nutkwa area, lands Congress designated for long-term protection in the Tongass Timber Reform Act of 1990. There are native graves as well as petroglyphs on an island across the channel. The native ghost town of Shakan lies in the immediate vicinity. Private ownership of this land would increase traffic through the passage, potentially impacting the important cultural sites in the area.

Near Boy Scout Trailhead, Juneau

The 6-acre proposed sale was an old homestead turned over to the Forest Service in the 1930s for recreation. A picnic shelter still stands on this property, a historic remnant from the Depression era. In 2003 the City and Borough of Juneau, with assistance from the Southeast Alaska Land Trust and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, purchased 147 acres of land surrounding the proposed sale for community recreation in this popular area.

Point Macartney and 2 Small Islands, Kupreanof Island

The proposed land sale consists of two small islands and the tip of Point Macartney on the northwest side of Kupreanof Island. Tlingits historically maintained a fort on a small, treeless island off of Kupreanof, to guard the village of Kake. This land has significant historical and cultural values to the village of Kake and communities of Southeast Alaska.

Tongass Conservation Society position is in short, negative impacts related to sales of these properties are quite apparent, and that analysis of all 300,000+ acres proposed nationally would demonstrate similar vulnerabilities.

Beyond the inherent values related to culture and recreation, the proposed sales are a short-term, short-sighted fix to the funding problem, says Vickrey. The proposal would fund the program for 5 years at approximately half the previous level, thus leading to a significant shortage of dollars compared to verifiable need. Indeed, this is no solution at all.

There are far more acceptable means to fund the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act being floated in Congress currently notes TCS. Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon proposes an amendment to add $523 million to the supplemental appropriations bill in order to fund the program. Senators Max Baucus of Montana and Ron Wyden of Oregon propose to fund the program through a tax withholding of 3% due to be paid by government contractors that provide goods and services to the United States.

Vickrey says that either option provides a more secure way to fund Rural Schools for a longer period of time with more money.


Source of News:

Tongass Conservation Society

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