SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Cherry picking
By Jeff Sbonek


May 16, 2011
Monday PM

In regards to the “Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Job Protection Act", the fact remains that no legislation is or ever has been necessary for Sealaska to finalize its ANCSA land claims settlements. It’s had a designated land pool to make its settlement selections from for over 40 years.  They were principle participants in the establishment of the boundaries of those land pools.  For over 3 years they have had a final selection on file with the BLM,  but have requested BLM to hold off processing that claim while they try to negotiate a “sweeter deal” through attempted legislation the past several years, an attempt to cherry pick the best of the best.

The term “job protection act” has been added to this current version of attempted legislation in a perverted attempt to sway public and congressional support based on false pretenses.  The greatest bulk of their proposed land selections are for timber harvest. The timber industry of the past was a FAILED industry in spite of MASSIVE government subsidy. The region has been successfully transitioning away from this failed economy. Commercial fishing, tourism, and recreation are, by far, the biggest contributors to the SE economy, with subsistence being a vital component. This bill UNDERMINES the economy of the region and the “security” of jobs and subsistence, NOT enhances it.  The timber industry never has been and never will be sustainable. Rotational harvest is not sustainable. All evidence from past timber harvest ANYWHERE shows it is NOT sustainable. You MIGHT get a second growth harvest but beyond that the soil is depleted and will not support further harvest. Even second growth falls far short of projected expectations on time for re-growth, totally dependent on specific site exposure and soils. Fishing, tourism, recreation and subsistence economies on the other hand, ARE sustainable, and depend on a healthy environment and intact ecosystems.

Past efforts by the proponents of this legislation has brought about a tremendous outcry of opposition to this legislation from across the whole region of SE Alaska: small communities vitally dependent on a healthy environment, municipalities, individuals, established businesses, commercial fishing people, sportsmen, recreationalists, environmental protection organizations, tourism industry, and even many Sealaska shareholders and members of the native community. Yet there continues to be a total disregard to this opposition in an effort to cater to corrupt corporate interests.

Sealaska claims that they are proposing to make this land exchange to “protect environmentally sensitive areas” and to “protect subsistence usage”.  This is an untruth. The proposed land selections are of the most environmentally sensitive lands in all of the Tongass National Forest and they certainly do not protect the subsistence lifestyles of the affected communities.

This is not a non-native vs. native issue. Of the broad spectrum of opposition to this proposed legislation I hear no one denying the rights to finalization of native land claims. This is an issue of a broad spectrum of the public vs. corrupt corporate greed, an unprecedented attempted land grab to cherry pick the best of the best. Congressional sponsors of this bill are in total disregard to the public opposition and to what’s TRULY in the best interest for the region and in complete allegiance to the massive campaign contributions received by them from Sealaska.  There have been many letters to the editor of the regional newspapers from members of the public, including natives and Sealaska shareholders, calling out for a new paradigm of leadership, not continuance of the same old divisive, corrupt leadership of the past and present, but new, responsible leadership that truly embraces what is in the greatest public interest, one that reflects the needs and interests of the region-wide public community.

This proposed legislation still continues to not be in the best interest for the greater public and region.


Jeff Sbonek
Port Protection, AK

Received May 15, 2011 - Published May 16, 2011




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