SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Sealaska Bill S-881
By Judy Magnuson


February 26, 2010
Friday AM

While trying to maintain the image of environmental responsibility Mr. McNeil ignores the facts that 71% of Sealaskas enterprise areas on North Prince of Wales Island and Kosciusko are on Karst, currently protected by the Federal Cave Resource Protection Act. This Act which directs Federal land managers to secure, protect and preserve significant caves on Federal land for the perpetual use, enjoyment and benefit of all people. To protect the caves one must also protect the karst system as a whole. The conveyance of karst to a private entity so that they may destroy it violates the FCRPA.

Why would we want to protect karst and cave resources? USFS studies determined the Karst and caves of this area are internationally significant because of the unique setting in largely undisturbed high latitude temperate coniferous rainforest, the ONLY place in the world this occurs. Studies show karst to be critically important to fisheries, streams flowing through karst support more fish than nonkarst streams on adjacent land. Studies stress greater management emphasis on maintaining this aquatic ecosystem as a whole unit to ensure protecting cave resources. The soil on karst is really mosses over a thin humus , This carpet holds moisture and allows the shallow root systems of the trees to live off the rock and minerals in the karst itself. When logged these systems are filled with debris and silt which can be transported long distances in the cave systems which can affect the water sources of residents dependent on spring water - such as Port Protection.

If Sealaska is truly being environmentally responsible why did they not select from other areas proposed to them by the USFS as late as 2002, that had equal volume of trees plus equal amounts of old growth but were less sensitive to logging than the karst on North Prince of Wales? And why have they not responded to alternate proposals made to them with areas of equal old growth ,equal volume and similar infrastructure but not on fragile karst of North Prince of Wales and Kosciusko that they could log? Is it economically responsible to select the land surrounding 3 small rural subsistence communities with the purpose of clear cutting around them, these villages economies are based on fishing and tourism and not on logging. We rely on a healthy forest habitat for the subsistence we depend upon and healthy fisheries habitat for our livelihood. Sealaska held one quick meeting in Port Protection, mostly to talk about how they have changed and become environmentally reborn. They showed slides which they stated were of 15 year old clear-cuts and when met with skepticism admitted that, no they were not 15 year old trees at all, -and thank you for pointing that out The meetings were quick and more to give their side of the issue than to listen to "our side" Besides it is OUR REPRESENTATIVES who need to hear our side, not the Corporation who wrote the Bill and who is to profit from it. I do not know why Sealaska thinks that the fact that they have held over 200 meetings is of any importance, their mind is obviously already made up. They said they had a survey--who took it? I know no one who was asked, they didn't ask anyone here. Sealaska is hardly an unbiased solicitor of comments, either through surveys or meetings.

We listen to Sealaska shareholders on the radio who speak obviously with true feeling that they need and deserve their land . No one debates that they should get their land that is coming to them. What is in debate is what land. Do they realize that the USFS has offered to Sealaska years ago lands less sensitive that they could log with less consequences and they turned it down Mr. McNeil has slick answers why this is all good for Prince of Wales Island. Why then has Sealaska protected the home areas of its main board members such as Yakutat and Angoon from this boon of clear cut logging. By excluding these areas in an ANCSA Amendment in 1977 they have deprived their residents of the blessing that Prince of Wales Island has had. This land on North Prince of Wales Island still belongs to the Native people as well as every other US citizen. We citizens have paid with our tax dollars for the roads and infrastructure here. We all have the right to use it no matter what race.

But it will take an act of Congress to let a private Corporation come in and destroy a valuable natural resource that benefits us all, so that the Corporation of Sealaska may provide a few more dollars for their shareholders and much larger incomes for their board members.

Judy Magnuson
Port Protection, AK

About: " Commercial fisherman living in Port Protection"

Received February 24, 2009 - Published February 26, 2010


Related Viewpoint:

letterSealaska land bill: Time to work together By Chris E. McNeil, Jr.

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