SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Nine Southeast Communities Oppose Revised Sealaska Bill


March 09, 2013
Saturday PM

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - Nine communities in southeast Alaska said they oppose a bill by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to allow an Alaska Native-owned corporation to acquire some 70,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest, arguing the bill could threaten their livelihoods. A February letter from the nine communities have asked the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Energy Committee, Ron Wyden, to kill "special interest legislation" for Sealaska Corporation.

Calling the bill introduced by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski “unfair and morally repugnant,” the towns pointed out that the bill would “create a new injustice against us” in the name of righting a wrong against them that was settled in 1971 when ANCSA passed.

The towns pointed out to Wyden in a letter two weeks ago, that the best solution is for BLM to finalize Sealaska?s designation of land in 2008 which was put on ice.

History shows federal cases dating to the 1940s holding that compensation for aboriginal land could only be for lands actually occupied and courts and judges who conducted extensive testimony finding that actually occupied lands only existed “around Native villages as they were in 1907, according to the letter.

“Instead of taking land around their villages, Sealaska wants to take land around our villages. Where is the fairness or justice in that said Myla Poelstra, the postmistress of Edna Bay.

“We relied on law that was 77 years in the making . Now Sealaska wants Congress to rewrite the law. Our towns are having none of that, “Poelstra said.

“A solution already exists making this bill unnecessary”, Poelstra noted. That solution lies in Congress killing this bill once and for all and allowing BLM to transfer title to the lands around their own villages

The communities, most of which are located on Prince of Wales Island, said the Sealaska Corporation should acquire lands only from within the "boxes" to which it was entitled under a 1971 land settlement, rather than select from other federal lands "around our villages," as Murkowski's bill would allow.

The towns told Wyden, “Over the eight years since the first version of a bill was introduced in Congress, S 340 has created great anxiety, hardship, and uncertainty in our communities. “

The communities opposed to the revised Sealaska Lands Bill include Thorne Bay, Cape Pole, Hollis, Naukati, Whale Pass, Kupreanof, Port Protection, Edna Bay and Point Baker.

In a February letter to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the communities asked to be allowed to testify if the panel holds a hearing on the bill. The same nine communities opposed Murkowski's Sealaska bill at a hearing before the committee in May 2011.

The revised Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Jobs Protection Act establishes where and how Sealaska may select 70,075 acres of land owed to it under ANCSA. The legislation is cosponsored by Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska).

The revised bill is designed to steer Sealaska’s timber harvesting activities toward second-growth timber, areas that already contain roads and existing timber infrastructure, and minimize impact on old-growth timber stands.

According to a February news release from Murkowski, in all, Sealaska would receive about 68,400 acres of land for timber development, about 1,099 acres for other economic development projects, such as hydroelectric generation and marine hydrokinetic activity, and tourism near the communities of Yakutat, Kake and Hydaburg.

The revised bill places 152,000 acres in national conservation areas to further protect old growth and important aquatic resources.

The revised legislation also provides Sealaska with selection rights to 490 acres to protect Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian traditional burial and historically significant land parcels.

The revised legislation also provides Sealaska with selection rights to 490 acres to protect Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian traditional burial and historically significant land parcels.

“We took great care to fulfill the promises made to Sealaska shareholders, while at the same time addressing the concerns of all Southeast residents who utilize the Tongass for everything from subsistence to fisheries to recreation,” Murkowski said in an earlier news release.

The revised bill removes some 26,000 acres of land selections on northern Prince of Wales Island. Language has also been added to create buffers along key fisheries and anchorage areas for fishermen, and addresses the U.S. Forest Service’s request to retain lands deemed important for its transition to focus on young-growth timber transition strategy in the Tongass.

“It has taken years to work through the many concerns about this bill. This is truly a compromise. But it finally gets Sealaska its lands and protects fisheries and wildlife,” Murkowski said in February.

According to an E&E News report, Murkowski's office has not commented on the towns' letter but said the senator has taken "unprecedented" steps to address the concerns of all stakeholders and remains committed to completing Sealaska's land entitlement in a way that sustains what's left of the timber industry in southeast Alaska.


Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews



Trout Unlimited Distances Itself from New Sealaska Lands Bill; Trout Unlimited Sets the Record Straight - A conservation group this weekend said it does not support a plan by Alaska's delegation to allow an Alaska Native-owned corporation to acquire roughly 70,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest for logging, energy and tourism development. - More...
February 18, 2013

Sealaska Lands Bill Revised – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) unveiled a new version of legislation Thursday to allow Southeast Alaska’s Sealaska Native Regional Corp. to complete the aboriginal land claims selections promised its shareholders 42 years ago under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). - More...
Friday - February 15, 2013



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