March 30, 2017, celebrates the 150th anniversary of the transfer of Alaskan lands from Russian and the corporate interests of the Russian American Trading Company to the American republic. Nearly sixty years ago, the people of Alaska achieved statehood after wresting control from corporate interests like the salmon canneries based in the Lower 48, so we could manage this state’s amazing natural resources to protect our livelihoods and way of life for the long term.
Today we are confronted with new but similar threats from a legislative onslaught on Alaska and the rest of the U.S. from the 115th Congress to benefit a few corporate interests at the expense of the larger public good.
This includes bills to exchange and giveaway our treasured Tongass National Forest to prop up the broken Southeast industrial timber business model. Rep. Young’s H.R.232 or more accurately named “State Forest Mis-Management Act” would give away 2 million acres of the Tongass National Forest including many of the public use cabins, campgrounds, trails, salmon strongholds, and tourism hotspots vital to the Southeast Alaska economy and quality of life. These areas would be given to the Alaska State Forests “primarily for timber production”, despite the agency spending $9 for every $1 earned on its timber program.
Sen. Murkowski and Rep. Young’s bills S.131 and H.R. 513 would push through the Alaska Mental Health Trust land exchange with the Tongass National Forest. We support finding a way to keep community use areas like Deer Mountain in Ketchikan and the hillside along Mitkof Highway in Petersburg from being logged, but these bills would do an end run around analyzing the effects on the land and allow for the public to provide input. The bill also allows the Trust to avoid looking at ways to maximize returns to mental health beneficiaries using non-timber revenues including selling parcels, easements or carbon credits to conservation buyers. At a recent public hearing at the State legislature, a Trust spokesperson stated (4:52) that the primary purpose to support this exchange is to provide timber for failing mills.
Stand up against these corporate subsidies to the timber industry so we can protect Alaska for the next 150 years. Stay informed with frequent visits to our Attacks on the Tongass web page and use our Action Alerts to demand your representatives hear your voice. Together, those of us who care about this truly unique place that is Southeast Alaska can make a difference and forge 21st-century solutions to the natural resource challenges ahead.