Fight to Stop Aerial Spraying
of Pesticides Moves Forward
October 05, 2006
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
"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."
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