The Tongass National Forest is under assault. There are those who want to carve it up, remove protections for critical fish and wildlife habitat, and diminish the public's voice in how it is managed. These have long been the goals of pro-development, big timber interests, and now with the support of Alaska's Congressional delegation they hope to make it all happen.
Senators Murkowski and Sullivan, and Congressman Young have introduced a flurry of bills which would:
Carve out 2 million acres of forest from the Tongass National Forest, to be put in State of Alaska ownership for rampant clearcutting (S.3203);
- Give Alaska Mental Health Trust 20,000 acres on Revillagigedo and Prince of Wales Island for clearcutting, in exchange for land AMHT cannot reasonably develop, and exclude the exchange from National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements (S.3006 & 3203);
- Exclude the Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Rule1, opening pristine old-growth forest for logging (S.3203);
- Establish a pro-development Alaska Land Use Council to oversee federal lands in the state (S.3005);
- Give 115,000 acres of Tongass forest land to five new corporations the legislation would establish 23,000 acres each (S.3004 & 3273);
- In a good approach, buy-out Shee Atika Corporation’s land holdings on Admiralty Island (S.3004 & 3273);
- Give Sealaska, Inc. 15,000 acres of forest land on Prince of Wales Island in exchange for the corporation’s subsurface land under Shee Atika’s above land (S.3004 & 3273);
- Allow Cook Inlet Region Inc. (CIRI) to select its remaining 44,000 acres of land entitlement from nearly anywhere in the state, including from the Tongass, instead of from its own region or nearby areas (S.3004 & 3273);
- Reopen the already twice-extended period for Native Vietnam veterans to select 160-acre land allotments, potentially as much as 600,000 acres in total (S.3004 & 3273).
- The table below gives a clear view of how those provisions are incorporated into the five Senate bills.
What you can do! Needless to say, it would be game over for other users of vast areas of the Tongass if any of these bills were to be enacted by Congress. It is clear that the goal of the pro- development lobby is to resurrect the unsustainable boom times of the timber industry in Southeast Alaska, and that it has the full support of our Congressional delegation. Their strategy to accomplish this is to move as much acreage as possible into private and state ownership, to avoid effective public oversight. Their tactics are about to unfold in deal-making in the halls and back rooms. Knowing this, there is no other option than to adamantly oppose all of this legislation. Please send messages to each member of the delegation, especially Senator Murkowski, strongly opposing all of these bills.
Please also encourage your friends and relatives throughout the nation to do so as well – their senators and representatives are likely to be the only brakes on this juggernaut, and in particular likely budget riders that we must fear.
Regarding the AMHT land exchange: This is a dire situation, with AMHT threatening to put its existing forest parcels out to bid for logging, which would greatly damage community viewsheds and most likely cause landslides into residential areas. But the solution we must press for is not a land exchange, but a buy-out of AMHT lands – just as with the above Shee Atika lands. Press our delegation to modify S.3006 to do a buy-out instead of an exchange – GSACC urges that approach and passage of the bill in that form.
1 The Roadless Rule is a 2001 federal regulation intended to protect the social and ecological values and characteristics of inventoried roadless areas from road construction and reconstruction and certain timber harvest activities (source: U.S. Forest Service).