Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions
Deer Mountain Logging
By Rep. Dan Ortiz
August 25, 2016
I, like the majority of my constituents, am in strong support of a healthy, viable timber industry. In this last legislative session I helped to pass Senate Bill 32, which was legislation that reduces some of the regulations on state owned timber lands and allowed for carefully selected, well-managed state timber land sales in Southeast Alaska. This measure should help companies like Viking Lumber on POW to remain viable into the future. Lands logged in Southeast Alaska should be separate from the land we enjoy recreationally, shouldn't diminish our local aesthetic, and shouldn't risk the health of our other industries, like, for example, the tourism and fishing industries.
The Mental Health Trust has stated that they will harvest the Deer Mountain parcels if Congress doesn't agree to a land exchange (USSB3006) by a deadline set by the Mental Health Trust. That deadline is January 15th. Admittedly, the Mental Health Trust has been put in a tough position. They've held off on harvesting timber in the Deer Mountain area for ten years, waiting over that decade for Congress to approve a land trade. Congress has failed to approve one. State regulations, to which the Mental Health Trust is subject, requires them to utilize their lands to generate the maximum revenue possible. Now, in this time of tight budgets, they feel they must begin to realize the financial benefits of the lands on Deer Mountain, as it is what they can do to procure operational funds. We can encourage Congress to assist this land swap by writing our own Alaskan Congressional Delegation as well as Washington Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. I am writing letters to all these members of Congress as your state representative.
However, it's not realistic for the Mental Health Trust to expect Congress to address the issue by January 15th. This timeline isn't workable for the Mental Health Trust, or the local population, or Congress, as much of the time between now and January 15th is scheduled recess for Congress. This timeline also isn't workable for the Mental Health Trust or the local population because it doesn't leave enough time to engage the community in this process. This project needs public input, and a stronger inclusion of the local population in the process, before the mental health trust can be successful in their endeavor.
The Mental Health Trust should reschedule their deadline so they give themselves, the local community, and Congress enough time to work out a winning solution.
Received August 25, 2016
- Published August 25, 2016
About: Ortiz is an independent member of the Alaska House of Representatives, who has since 2015 represented the 36th District. He is the only independent in the Alaska State Legislature.
First step taken toward logging Deer Mountain by Leila Kheiry. KRBD - The Alaska Mental Health Trust took its first step toward logging Ketchikan’s iconic Deer Mountain, along with a parcel in Petersburg. - Read or listen to this KRBD story...
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