By Gretchen Goldstein
May 04, 2010
An article about your commitment to space exploration got me thinking about the extensive, almost unexplored cave system which underlies Prince or Wales and Kosciusco Islands in Alaska, where I live.
The limestone karst was once a reef somewhere in the southern hemisphere, which long ago broke loose and crashed into existing land-masses in one area of southeast Alaska. Preliminary explorations discovered human remains from 10,000 years ago, which has changed scientific thinking about glaciation and migration patterns. His DNA reveals the man to be related to a small genetic group in northern Japan; he is not genetically related to local Native-Americans, and probably traveled by boat, not land-bridge, arriving here at a time the land was previously thought to be submerged. Also discovered were cave growths which require no light at all to grow, of a size and abundance unknown anywhere else on the planet.
While we try to learn more about the galaxy around us, this fantastic, world-class, unexplored underground wilderness area of earth is slated for destruction.
There are bills in committee (S881-HR2099) to privatize 85,000 acres of the multiple-use National Forest that overlies the fragile underground limestone formations. If Sealaska Corporation is granted the land exchange it is requesting, it intends to clear-cut log the land. The biggest trees in the forest grow on nutrient-rich karst. (Fish reared in the underground stream system also grow larger).
Karst, by its nature, is fragile. Presently this world-class cave system is protected by USFS management policies, in keeping with the Federal Cave Resource Protection Act. Once privatized, the cave system loses all protections. Collapse of fragile structures caused by logging above them will ruin underground stream systems. Siltation from the destruction of the ground above will both silt up streams and change their acidic content. We will lose not just forest habitat and fish habitat, but also all the as yet ungathered knowledge these caves hold about planet Earth.
Exploring this inner space can teach us as much as exploring outer space, at a fraction of the cost. Out planet seems far more interesting than anything we have discovered around us, yet with the contempt of familiarity we casually destroy its wonders. If a system like these caves were found on Mars we would spend fortunes protecting and exploring them. On Earth, small grants to eager scientists and cavers could yield huge gains in future knowledge. But only if the land remains under Federal protection.
The Corporation requesting
the privatization of this much multiple-use area of National
Forest has alternative lands to choose for their logging operations. There
is no alternative cave system awaiting exploration. And the precedent
of giving away land, held in trust by the Government for the
public benefit, to a private Corporation, with no determination
of need or of National interest or benefit, is very frightening
for the future.
Thank you for your time on
this, and all your efforts.
Received May 03, 2010 - Published May 04, 2010
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