SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Judge Strikes Down Long Island Aerial Pesticide Spraying Permit
Victory for traditional uses, clean water, and wildlife


May 02, 2007

An Alaska State Superior Court judge decided in favor of safe wild foods, clean water, and wildlife when he reversed a Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) permit that would have allowed Klukwan, Inc. to spray pesticides from a helicopter on Long Island near Prince of Wales Island. The judge's decision follows an appeal of DEC's decision filed on June 19, 2006 by the Hydaburg Cooperative Association, City of Hydaburg, Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, Organized Village of Kake, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, and Alaska Community Action on Toxics. Briefings and oral arguments were made by the parties on March 19, 2007.




"This is a great win for the Tlingit and Haida people," said Bill Martin, President of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. "It protects the customary and traditional use areas that are so important to us. It's definitely something to celebrate!"

One of the main concerns that brought the different parties together on the appeal was the precedent the permit would set to allow aerial spraying of chemicals near salmon streams, hunting areas, and locations used for gathering traditional foods and other resources. Buck Lindekugel, Conservation Director and staff attorney for the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, was lead counsel for the parties in the appeal.

"This is great news for Hydaburg," said Anthony Christiansen, Mayor of Hydaburg and Environmental Planner for Hydaburg Cooperative Association. "People here were extremely worried about the effects of spraying these chemicals on their traditional foods."

The decision addressed four concerns:

  • Agency decisions must be reasoned and explained; DEC failed to do so. The judge's opinion stated, "[I]t is in the social interest to have decisions adequately explained and the factual basis of a decision known to the public. Citizens have a right to know those things so that they may have faith that government makes reasoned decisions. That wasn't done in this case."
  • DEC must consider the safeguards in state regulations that protect water quality when reviewing an application for a permit to apply pesticides from the air. DEC failed to do so for this permit.
  • DEC abused its discretion when it imposed buffers around eagle nests that were much smaller than buffers suggested by US Fish and Wildlife Service to prevent interfering with nesting.
  • There is no evidence in DEC's permit decision documents showing that the agency took a hard enough look at the impacts of aerial spraying on groundwater in the limestone geology (karst) of Long Island.

On March 1, 2006, the DEC issued a permit to Klukwan, Inc. to spray a cocktail of 2 pesticides and 2 other chemicals by helicopter to kill "unwanted" alder and salmonberry in previously clearcut land owned by the Native corporation. Klukwan, Inc. planned to spray over 1,965 acres on Long Island, near Prince of Wales Island. There has been controversy over the plan since it was first proposed in 1999. The appeal followed a request by 48 Native, conservation, fishing, and health organizations and individuals for DEC to reconsider the permit. DEC refused to hold an agency hearing on the permit following that request.

"If Klukwan, Inc. wanted to make the forest grow back faster after clearcutting, they could just go in and cut the alder," said Mike Jackson, Natural Resource Specialist of the Organized Village of Kake. "Aerial pesticide spraying just isn't called for anywhere in Alaska."

"This is a significant decision that serves to protect the health of people, subsistence resources, and water quality," said Pamela Miller, Executive Director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. "Over the last six years Alaskans from around the state have been working to limit aerial spraying of pesticides and advocate for safe alternatives."
"We've said all along DEC didn't make an honest effort to address people's concerns about spraying pesticides from the air," said Russell Heath, Executive Director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. "All Alaskans should be heartened that the court has required DEC to go back and take a hard look at an activity that puts our clean water and other resources at such great risk."


Sources of News:

Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska
Alaska Community Action on Toxics
Natural Resource Specialist of the Organized Village of Kake
Southeast Alaska Conservation Council
Environmental Planner for Hydaburg Cooperative Association


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska