October 25, 2003
The exchange, co-sponsored by Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, involves the Forest Service buying the 349 acres of trail, trailhead and parking area along with mountaintop property. Craig then will use federal funding to acquire the 221,000-square-foot site (on 10 acres) of the former cannery, located on the waterfront at Third and Main Streets. The site is the prime location for economic, commercial or industrial development in central Prince of Wales Island.
The exchange will allow the Forest Service to acquire prime recreation and hiking trail that leads to Mount Sunnahae, located east of Craig, plus a large recreation track on the north side of the mountain. Murkowski said the trade would also give the Forest Service's Craig Ranger District Station forest lands to manage. Currently, the ranger station is in the unusual situation of being in an in-holding surrounded by private, state and city-owned lands.
Murkowski said she introduced the bill at the request of island residents to aid Prince of Wales residents diversity their economy to overcome the losses caused by the downturn in the area's timber industry.
"The entire island, the third largest in the country, is in transition. In the early 1980's, the city and Prince of Wales Island were the center of a vibrant timber-based economy that provided thousands of direct and indirect jobs to the Island. Much of that is now gone as a result of unfortunate federal policies that have devastated the timber-based economy on the island and much of Southeast. This exchange will help Craig in its transition to another economy," said Murkowski, noting the area's unemployment rate often exceeds 20 percent.
"The exchange is critical to the future of Craig. It will provide a great management tool to the Forest Service and increased recreational opportunities for the local and visiting public," said Murkowski. "Given the downturn in timber, it is vital for the economy that the Community of Craig has the opportunity to develop the largest tract left inside its city limits. It is really the only site with the potential to attract industrial or commercial business to Craig," she said.
"This legislation consolidates federal landholdings on Prince of Wales Island, while allowing the city of Craig to expand its economic development opportunities," said Sen. Ted Stevens.
The bill requires an appraisal by a qualified outside appraiser before the exchange takes place. In addition, the legislation allows for an appropriation of $250,000 to the Forest Service for trail maintenance and rehabilitation on the property. The bill will head to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for its review.
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