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Fight to Stop Aerial Spraying of Pesticides Moves Forward


October 05, 2006
Thursday AM

On Friday, September 29th, the quest for justice on Long Island moved one step closer to resolution according to Dave Sherman, a grassroots organizer for the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. The opening brief in the lawsuit contesting the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) approval of Klukwan, Inc.'s plans to spray a cocktail of pesticides on Long Island from helicopter was filed, and the event has sparked concerned citizens to boost efforts to stop aerial spraying.

Sherman said it is hoped that the significant concerns about the spraying's impact on areas where the Haida People have hunted, fished, and gathered for generations will prompt the government to revoke the permit and to issue new regulations that do not threaten the health and vitality of the subsistence way of life so many rural Alaskans depend on.

"Everyone knows that the Haida People have strong cultural ties to Long Island. Many of the families in Hydaburg came from Long Island, and we continue to use the beaches for family gatherings, hunting, and berry picking," said Adrian LeCornu, President of the Hydaburg Cooperative Association. "We are unwilling to tolerate the poisoning of our traditional food gathering areas and our rivers, lakes, and oceans. It is great to see other tribes, from Yakutat to Ketchikan, unite in their opposition to this plan to dump chemicals on important traditional hunting and gathering areas."

Klukwan, Inc. plans to use a helicopter to spray approximately 2,000 acres of clearcut land on Long Island, near Prince of Wales Island in southern Southeast Alaska. If Klukwan, Inc. plans go forward, this would be the first time aerial spraying would be allowed under new state regulations. This could set the stage for other operations throughout Alaska said Sherman. It is a quick and dirty attempt at suppressing red alder, a plant that quickly grows after an area is clearcut, to help spruce recolonize faster said Sherman.

Skeptics of the spraying plan say alder adds nitrogen, a nutrient plants need to grow that is scarce in Southeast Alaska, to the soil and may help the health of the forest. Alder also has commercial value as high-quality flooring, furniture, and other wood products.

"It's not possible to say that these chemicals won't get in our foods. How can we trust DEC to make the right decision about our way of life?" said Viola Burgess, a Hydaburg resident. "Tribal communities throughout Southeast Alaska depend on our ability to hunt and gather traditional foods. Not only is this important to us culturally, but these foods are increasingly important to us as the cost of fuel and other goods continues to rise. "

Dave Sherman of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council said the chemicals include Arsenal (with active ingredient imazapyr) and Accord (with active ingredient glyphosate). Two additional chemicals, Competitor and In-Place, would be added to increase the effectiveness of the mixture. The full impact of this particular combination is not known because it has never been tested according to Sherman. The effects of the chemical cocktail could be particularly harmful to people who consume large quantities of sprayed foods, such as those who rely on Long Island for subsistence foods. Children and elders could be at even greater risk said Sherman.

"DEC has repeatedly ignored the strong public opposition to these plans, and the credible, peer-reviewed scientific evidence of harm to people s health and well-being," said Pam Miller of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. "To dump toxics on the island when there are other, viable means of managing the area is just not acceptable.

Since Klukwan, Inc.'s initial permit application in 2000, a broad and steadily expanding coalition of fishing organizations, tribal organizations, health and conservation groups have come together opposing the application. More than 99% of the 1,298 comments DEC has received have opposed the plan.

"Our leaders need to address this issue, which could impact not only Hydaburg, but native communities throughout Southeast Alaska. Clearly, we need to keep our leaders on task so that other communities don't have to go through what we are doing," stated Tom Morrison, Mayor of Hydaburg.

Mayor Morrison said, "We will not allow our land to be denigrated further by economic greed. Nobody likes to file a lawsuit, but circumstances forced our hand. If our elders have to sit on the beach in protest while the spraying occurs, we will sit together in solidarity to protect the integrity of our way of life."



Southeast Alaska Conservation Council


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