A Whole Heap of New Murkowski Bills Available for Comment!

September 23, 2016

esterday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on 21 (yes, 21!) different pieces of legislation, including a suite of bills that make compromises on the Tongass in different ways. While the jam-packed hearing allowed little time for meaningful discussion, there is still time for you to weigh in.Naha_River_(1)_-_Photograph_by_Mark_Edwards.jpeg

We’ve outlined below what the different Tongass-related bills introduced by Senator Murkowski would do. It sounds overwhelming, but you can comment on specific provisions or simply let the committee know that you want Tongass National Forest lands to remain in public hands and be managed in the best interests of all Americans.

Submit your comments by Friday, September 30th to fortherecord@energy.senate.govPut the specific bill # and title in the subject line, as well as the date of the hearing (9/22/2016).  You can view an archived webcast of the hearing here.

S. 3203, the Alaska Economic Development and Access to Resources Act

  • Sec. 402 – Valid Existing Claims – Elevates mining above all uses of the forest by restricting the USFS's authority to regulate surface use of National Forest lands. Our national forests must be managed for all users.
  • Sec. 503 -- Roadless Area Conservation Rule Exemption - Exempts both the Tongass and Chugach National Forests from Roadless Rule. The Roadless Rule makes sense fiscally and ecologically and should continue to be implemented in Alaska.
  • Sec. 502 -- Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Exchange -- Authorizes the exchange of about 20,000 acres of Tongass National Forest lands for timber development on Prince of Wales and Revilla Islands for over 18,000 acres of existing Mental Health Trust lands near Ketchikan and Petersburg.  No logging should occur on the steep hillsides and popular recreation areas that the Alaska Mental Health Trust currently owns, but this issue can be resolved in Alaska; legislation is unnecessary.
  • Sec. 503 -- Tongass State Forest Facilitation – Allows selection of two million acres of the Tongass National Forest by the State of Alaska for a state forest, which would be managed for timber production first, not “multiple use.” Alaska Fish and Wildlife habitat standards are less protective than federal standards.

S. 3273, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Improvement Act of 2016

  • Sec. 5 – Reacquiring Cube Cove Surface Lands -- permits Shee Atika to elect to receive payment in cash or bid credits for acquiring federal surplus property from federal agencies for about 23,000 acres of land it clearcut on Admiralty Island. This is actually a little bit of good news; it would eventually make Admiralty Island National Monument “whole”.
  • Sec. 6 -- Admiralty Island National Monument Land Exchange -- authorizes the USFS to obtain Sealaska's subsurface estate at Cube Cove in exchange for surface and subsurface estate to about 8,872 acres and the surface estate to approximately 5,145 acres of Tongass lands on Prince of Wales Island. This exchange is not for equal value.  In a real “value for value” exchange, Sealaska would get less than 500 acres of old-growth forest in exchange for its 23,000 acres of subsurface estate at Cube Cove. 
  • Sec. 10 – New Native Corporations -- authorizes Native residents of Haines, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Tenakee and Wrangell to organize Urban Corporations and receive 23,040 acres of Tongass lands each. Fails to provide protection for Tongass Legislated LUD II wildlands and perpetuates all the flaws of the ANCSA corporate model.
  • Sec. 11 -- Alaska Native Veterans Allotment Equity - reverses key compromises reached in 1998 and disrupts efforts to finalize entitlements under existing laws. This section causes more problems than it solves.

Please make your voices heard today! If you want to discuss any particulars of the bills, please email us at info@seacc.org or call (907) 586-6942.

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