SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Alaska Mental Health Trustees Postpone Timber Sale Reconsideration Until Jan. 2017


November 20, 2016
Sunday PM

(SitNews) Anchorage, Alaska - The Alaska Mental Health Trustees voted Thursday to reconsider the proposed timber sales as a new matter at their next board meeting on January 25-26, 2017.

“After taking into account the feedback we received at the community meetings, the comments shared at the Trustees meeting, and recent updates from Washington, I recommended the Trustees take more time to carefully consider the new information. They voted unanimously to revisit the matter at the end of January. They listened to the communities and are open to any alternative that best meets the interests of the Trust,” said John Morrison, Executive Director of the Trust Land Office (TLO).

The meeting included two hours for public comment. Participants from across the state focused their comments on the beneficiaries, recent leadership changes and expressed concerns about the proposed timber sales close to communities near Petersburg, Ketchikan and Saxman. Trustees voted to postpone the decision for various reasons, including:

Alaska Mental Health Trust Parcels Proposed for Exchange - Ketchikan Area
Map Creation 09/19/16
Click here or on the map for a larger image. (PDF)

Map courtesy Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Office

  • a chance to address suggestions raised at community meetings, including a willingness to consider viable alternatives such as the sale of parcels themselves, carbon credits and easements,
  • the outcome of the national election increases the odds of the land exchange legislation passing,
  • an acknowledgement of the breadth of public comment from residents of potentially impacted communities.

For nearly a decade, the Trust Land Office has been working to exchange 17,341 acres of Trust lands adjacent to the communities of Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka and Juneau that would be transferred to the United States Forest Service in exchange for 20,580 acres of remote land on Prince of Wales Island and Shelter Cove to be transferred from the USFS to the Trust for development and timber harvest.

Numerous meetings have been conducted by the Trust Land Office with individuals, agencies, communities, environmental organizations and the USFS to identify and select the parcels.

The Alaska Mental Health Trust and US Forest Service Land Exchange has been pursued since 2005. An Agreement to Initiate (ATI), for the exchange, was signed in June of 2015

The Trust Land Office says the land exchange is the most responsible way to fulfill the mission of the Trust, while avoiding the potential adverse impacts on tourism, recreation, wildlife management and watershed protection in areas near Ketchikan, Petersburg and Saxman.. Protecting what remains of the timber industry in Southeast Alaska by providing more timber lands that could be managed on a sustainable yield basis is another benefit of the exchange.

At Thursday's meeting, it was also announced that the Governor’s Office approved Greg Jones, as the interim CEO, effective November 15. Jones has served in executive positions in both the public and private sectors and possesses a deep knowledge of the Trust and its purpose having previously served as executive director of the TLO between 2010 and 2013.

The Trust will conduct a full organizational assessment with the support of the Trustees, John Morrison, Greg Jones and a third-party consulting firm to determine if it is effectively improving lives of beneficiaries while maximizing revenues and protecting the corpus.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Trustees spoke with great emotion and offered personal stories about how their family members have directly benefited from the mental health services funded by the Trust. These experiences serve as a constant reminder of why they are passionately committed to serve on the Board.

Trustee and Resource Committee Chair Carlton Smith shared his mother’s story. “After being raised in an orphanage, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age nineteen. My mother became a beneficiary. She lived in and out of institutions and on the streets of Juneau for years,” he shared.

“Our focus has always been on how to best provide for our beneficiaries. I can tell you that we all care deeply and we take our fiduciary responsibilities very seriously,” said Russ Webb, Board Chair.

Alaska Mental Health Trust Parcels Proposed for Exchange - Ketchikan Area
Map Creation 09/19/16
Click here or on the map for a larger image. (PDF)

Map courtesy Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Office

The Trust Land Office says the land exchange would:

  • Protect popular trails, viewsheds and iconic recreational sites along the Inside Passage
  • Ensure watersheds are protected so that Southeast residents receive clean water
  • Preserve certain old growth timber stands in the forest
  • Ensure jobs stay in the Southeast communities by protecting the timber and tourism industries
  • Protect mental health services by providing revenue to support the Trust’s mission

The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority (AMHTA) has been funding programs to serve Alaska’s most vulnerable populations for the past two decades. This includes programs for mental illnesses, developmental disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, traumatic brain injuries and substance abuse disorders. The Trust does not receive any general funds from the state of Alaska. In order to support vital mental health services for Alaskans, the Trust needs to generate revenue from its land and resources. This effort is managed by the Trust Land Office.

In addition to Ketchikan and Petersburg, other areas involved in the land exchange bill include Hollis, Juneau, Meyers Chuck, Naukati, Shelter Cove, Sitka and Wrangell.

Land Exchange Legislation:


Trust Land Office 2016 Fall Land Sale Apparent High Bidder's List

Other Land Exchange Maps:



Meyers Chuck


Shelter Cove



How to Help:

Email the Alaska congressional delegation to thank them and express your support of the land exchange legislation.

Senator Lisa Murkowski:

Senator Dan Sullivan:

Representative Don Young:


Related News:

Mental Health Trust to Log Deer Mountain Timber if Land Exchange Legislation Does Not Pass
SitNews - August 29, 2016

Debate over Deer Mountain Logging began more than 20 years ago By DAVE KIFFER
SitNews - August 29, 2016

Ketchikan, Saxman and Petersburg Residents Invited to Meet with Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Office
SitNews - October 16, 2016


Reporting & Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Source of News:

Mental Health Trust Land Office



Representations of fact and opinions in comments posted are solely those of the individual posters and do not represent the opinions of Sitnews.


Submit A Letter to SitNews

Contact the Editor

SitNews ©2016
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

 Articles & photographs that appear in SitNews may be protected by copyright and may not be reprinted without written permission from and payment of any required fees to the proper sources.

E-mail your news & photos to

Photographers choosing to submit photographs for publication to SitNews are in doing so granting their permission for publication and for archiving. SitNews does not sell photographs. All requests for purchasing a photograph will be emailed to the photographer.