SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


S 881 Bill Still Misses Mark; Ignores Community and Small Business Concerns
By Johnnie Laird


July 08, 2010
Thursday PM

After many months of participation in the S 881 process, I continue to be disappointed in Senator's Murkowski's legislation that will go up before the Senate Natural Resources Committee by the end of this month.

In the recently amended version of the bill it is still very clear that she is still deaf and blind to the concerns of most of Southeast Alaska's citizens and communities. Many of her constituents in Southeast will be negatively affected if this law passes as amended, including subsistence users, hunters, fishermen, guides, and lodge owners.

Access to Sealaska lands was a major concern of persons and communities that testified and responded during the Senator's listening sessions. The latest amendments further complicate the questionable access language by clouding the issue even more. For example, the newly created Section 7 has totally unpredictable consequences in terms of implementation at the local level. This new section would establish 153,000 acres of "New Conservation and Subsistence Use Areas." These acres "shall be managed for purposes of ... subsistence use." These lands already fall under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) Title VIII subsistence preference. Will this amendment further restrict non-area non-rural hunters and fishermen?

The timber selection on the north-end of Prince of Wales Island is reduced in comparison to the earlier proposal, but selections within Polk Inlet and McKenzie Inlet have been increased to 10,328 acres. Additionally, the new selections of 7,336 additional acres in the upper 12 Mile Arm will heavily impact Hollis and Saltery Cove resident's subsistence activities, Prince of Wales Island and Ketchikan hunters and fishermen, and several well-established businesses operating in those areas.

Senator Murkowski has stated that this whole process has been "open and transparent" ­ the truth is totally the opposite. Continually, she has failed to adequately make the bill available for public review and comment. Only under heavy public pressure did her staff hold public listening sessions and rarely has she updated her web site with current information. Months have passed since those winter listening sessions-now at the end of the session of the 111th Congress, in just a few weeks, she is looking to pass a controversial bill that has divided the Southeast community.

Versions of the revised bill have been sent to the Natural Resources Committee as well as leaked to other individuals and organizations who have been working behind the scenes to protect their and the citizens and communities of SE Alaska's interests. Most of these negotiations have fallen far short of what could be considered acceptable by these individuals and organizations-there has been no room for compromise. The legislation continues to only serve one organization ­ Sealaska. Now many of these individuals and organizations are calling for Senator Murkowski to withdraw the whole Sealaska bill.

There are now only three weeks for Alaskans and communities to study this large proposal which would change the lives of so many in Southeast Alaska. Given this busy time of the season when commercial fishermen are on their boats, small businesses are manning their stores, and guides, such as myself, are making our living by serving tourists to Alaska ­ our time is short. How does squeezing this legislation in just a few weeks, give the communities and small businesses time to read, understand and be able to provide constructive feedback on this proposal?

The simple answer is that there is not adequate time for feedback or community dialogue. We need more time to craft a proposal that ensures not only the needs of one stakeholder ­ but takes into account the needs of all small businesses and the surrounding communities that they support.

Johnnie Laird
Ketchikan & Hollis resident
Hunting and Fishing Guide
Ketchikan, AK


Received June 08, 2010 - Published July 08, 2010



Proposed Changes to Sealaska Bill Unveiled - Following a dozen town meetings and the review of hundreds of comments and suggestions, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) presented her recommendations for changes in a bill to permit the Sealaska Native Regional Corp. to finalize its ANCSA land selections in Southeast Alaska. - More...
Tuesday - July 07, 2010

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