SEACC Historical Timeline
We started in 1970 as a tenacious group of Southeast Alaskans passionate about protecting this place. Here’s how far we’ve come since then.
May 1, 1970
The Call Goes Out
Before SEACC had leadership, a mission, or even a name, a question had to be answered: Is there a need for a regional group to coordinate conservation efforts across Southeast Alaska? At the time, there were many groups tackling multiple conservation-related issues. Some wondered if this was effective.
Margaret H. Piggott, Chairman of the Tongass Conservation Society, put out the official call. She sent a letter to Harvey Gilliland, Chairman of the Save the Creek Committee in Petersburg asking all Southeast Alaskan conservation groups to gather at the earliest opportunity without the presence of any agency’s representatives. Invitations were sent to Dr. George Logenbaugh of Sitka, Jack Calvin of Sitka, Richard Myren of Auke Bay, Rich Gordon of Juneau, Edward K. Browne of Ketchikan, Barbara Kalen of Skagway, Ray Menaker of Haines, and Bob Weeden of Juneau and Fairbanks.
June 6 and 7, 1970
Southeast Alaska Conservation Coordinating Committee Forms
It turns out, yes, regional coordination of conservation issues was needed. A meeting was held in Sitka on June 6 and 7, 1970. Attendees decided to form the Southeast Alaska Conservation Coordinating Committee.
Dixie Baade was chosen by acclamation as the first “Coordinator” i.e. chairman of the Committee. In attendance was Dr. George Longenbaugh of Sitka Conservation Society (SCS) and Bob Nelson of Thayer Lake Lodge, Admiralty Island. There were three from Ketchikan, two from Petersburg, Rich Gordon from Juneau, and Northwest Conservation Representative Brock Evans. Member groups included SCS, Sitka group Sierra Club, Juneau group Sierra Club, Southeast Alaska Mountaineering Association, Tongass Conservation Society, and Petersburg Conservation Society.
March 13 and 14, 1971
The Final Name Change
At a meeting held at the home of Margaret Piggot, the name was officially changed to the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.
March 7 and 9, 1975
Formal Proposal for 45 Protected Areas
By 1975, SEACC began looking closely at what places it would work to conserve in order to best prioritize the overall needs of Southeast.
The SEACC board put forth a proposal to preserve 45 specific land areas. Some of the key people to develop the SEACC proposal were Harry Merriam, Rich Gordon, Dick Myren, Chuck Johnstone, Bob Nelson, Dixie Baade, and Jack Calvin.
The proposal was viewed as a compromise between the potential for preservation in Southeast Alaska and the demands placed on the forest by the timber industry — and did not include many areas that warranted protection. The board also proposed management ideas to the Forest Service that included recreation and conservation.
February 7 and 8, 1976
Legal Reorganization and the First Paid Staff Members
SEACC hired Kay Greenough and Ron Hawk as part-time directors and an agreement was made to incorporate SEACC. It was also decided that SEACC representatives would be sent to Washington, D.C. during National Forest legislation debates.
June 21, 1976
The First Ravencall Is Published
“The acronym for the Council is SEACC, pronounced as ‘sea-ak’. It is the organization’s goal to make ‘SEACC’ a household word in southeast Alaska.”
To this day, SEACC publishes annual magazines focusing on current conservation issues in Southeast Alaska. Each issue contains staff-written articles, interviews with donors and Indigenous community members, and a thoughtful note from the executive director.
August 26, 1985
A Federal Court Injunction Is Won for Berners Bay
SEACC and other organizations won a federal court injunction issued against road building in Berners Bay. SEACC had filed a joint lawsuit along with Friends of Berners Bay, the Juneau Group of the Sierra Club, and Alaska Discovery. Represented by the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, it won a federal court injunction prohibiting road construction and holding the line on the undisturbed Berners Bay area north of Juneau.
D.C. or Bust
SEACC established an office in Washington, D.C. to begin a national campaign to reform Tongass forest management.
July 30, 1986
Tongass Timber Reform Act Introduced in Congress
SEACC spearheaded efforts to improve forest management and permanently protect more than 1 million acres of valuable forest. SEACC hailed the introduction of the Tongass Timber Reform Act in the U.S. House of Representatives as “a major step forward in bringing about needed changes in the management of our nation’s largest national forest.”
New Groups Join SEACC
Three new groups join SEACC’s coalition. Welcomed into the fold were the Alaska Society of American Forestdwellers of Point Baker and Port Protection, The False Island-Kook Lake Council of Tenakee Springs, and Friends of Berners Bay of Juneau.
July 27, 1988
Tongass Reform Sweeps Through U.S. House
In a stunning show of support for reforming management of the Tongass National Forest, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Tongass Timber Reform Act by an overwhelming 361-47 vote. “It was a powerful vote. It was a major statement by Congress that things need to change in the Tongass,” said SEACC’s executive director Bart Koehler.
July 13, 1989
House Passes Tongass Reform Bill 356-60
In a stunning 356-60 show of support for major reform on Tongass National Forest management, the U.S. House of Representatives on July 13 passes the strongest version yet of the Tongass Timber Reform Act. The landslide vote came despite lobbying by Alaska Congressman Don Young and the Southeast Alaska timber industry.
May 8, 1990
Lawmakers Save the Yakataga State Game Refuge
In a last-minute, come-from-behind conservation victory, Alaska’s lawmakers vote on May 8 to create a 90,000-acre Yakataga State Game Refuge on the coast between Yakutat and Cordova. Approximately 15,00 adjacent acres were to be managed like a game refuge and studied for addition to the refuge later.
November 28, 1990
Tongass Timber Reform Act Becomes Law
Culminating years of debate on Capitol Hill, President George H.W. Bush signed the Tongass Timber Reform Act into law on November 28, nine years after Congress passed the 1980 Alaska Lands Act. The legislation represents nearly a decade of hard work by many Southeast Alaskans and SEACC, and years of increasing national attention for Tongass reform.
SEACC Defends Tongass Against Senate Attack
When the U.S. Senate passed the budget bill for the National Forest system in September 1991, it included language directing a 1992 Tongass timber sale offering of 450 million board feet per year. The provision slipped into the Senate appropriations package by Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, would have reinstated, for one year, the very timber mandate that the Tongass Timber Reform Act repealed just the year before.
Stevens’ attempt to reinstate the “450 Cut Mandate” for 1992 was rebuffed. SEACC hustled through the final days of Congressional negotiating to delete this backdoor attempt to undermine the Tongass Timber Reform Act from the Forest Service’s budget bill.
October 7, 1996
Louisiana-Pacific Announces Ketchikan Pulp Mill Closure
The U.S. Forest Service grants two 50-year logging contracts to the Ketchikan Pulp Company and Sitka’s Alaska Pulp Corporation in 1954 and 1961, respectively. Soon after, old-growth trees and watersheds everywhere, full of salmon and game, fell to the saw, appalling many Southeast Alaskans.
SEACC fought the contracts long and hard in the political sphere and in the courtroom until finally in 1993 APC closed its pulp mill and in 1996, KPC abandoned its contract. The KPC was closed on March 24, 1997.
February 21, 1997
Sawmill Agreement Closes Out Long-Term Contracts
An agreement is signed to resolve legal claims the Ketchikan Pulp Company and its parent company, Louisiana-Pacific, lodged against the federal government, and to allow for KPC’s pulp mill to shut down.
The final agreement immediately cancels all new timber sales under KPC’s old contract, lets a modified contract run until the end of 1999, gives KPC $140 million to settle all claims against the federal government, and reaffirms KPC’s responsibility to fully clean up the Ward Cove mill site.
SEACC’s Coalition Grows Again
The Pelican Forestry Council brings the number of new groups recently joining SEACC to four.
Victory Against Alaska Pulp’s Air Pollution
Local conservation groups, including SEACC, protest a proposed consent decree negotiated between the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Alaska Pulp Corporation (APC). The proposed consent decree was supposedly designed to force APC’s Sitka mill to comply with Alaska’s air quality standards for the first time in the mill’s history.
In reality, it was merely a “pay-to-pollute” agreement that would have allowed the mill to operate without ever achieving compliance. Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, on behalf of the Sitka Conservation Society, SEACC, and the Sierra Club moved to intervene in the lawsuit to oppose entry of the proposed consent decree, claiming it violated the Clean Air Act. Rather than face contested litigation, DEC and mill officials agreed to strengthen the terms of the decree.
SEACC Member Groups Stall Tenakee Inlet Timber Sale
After appeals from Tenakee residents, the Chichagof Conservation Council, and the Sitka Conservations Society, on March 20, 2000, the Forest Service reversed its Record of Decision on the Indian River Timber Sale.
“Local citizens caught the Forest Service red-handed, not following their own book of rules,” said Marc Wheeler, SEACC’s grassroots organizer. “This shows the important role local citizens can play in watchdogging the agency, making sure they follow the Tongass Land Management Plan’s guidelines and all environmental laws. But now is not the time to relax. The agency is also currently planning to log directly across the Inlet from Tenakee Springs in the Finger Mountain Timber Sale.’”
Roadless Rule Alternative Excludes Tongass
In May 2000, the U.S. Forest Service released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the Roadless Rule, but the USFS’s Preferred Alternative excluded the Tongass. Members were urged to chime in at local hearings.
“The science, the economics, the tens of thousands of public comments all make an overwhelming case for inclusion of the Tongass in the roadless policy,” said SEACC grassroots attorney Buck Lindekugel. ‘We’re going to work hard to close the Tongass loophole but we’re going to need help. We need people to show up at the hearings throughout Southeast Alaska and across the country. We need to tell the agency to fix the roadless plan by including the Tongass.”
Tongass Timber Lawsuit Filed
SEACC filed a lawsuit to challenge the 1997 Tongass Land Management Plan in response to the George W. Bush Administration and Senator Lisa Murkowski’s push to increase industrial-scale clearcut logging. SEACC conducted an in-depth study of taxpayer subsidies on the Tongass timber industry and published its findings.
The findings revealed that demand for Tongass timber had fallen dramatically due to global timber market forces and increasing competition, as well as increased production costs compared to other areas in the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, it was found that local communities were not benefiting economically from post-harvest processing.
Mine Tailings and Admiralty Monument
SEACC took the lead in preparing and submitting comments on the Determination of Significance Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) and filed an administrative appeal on the Greens Creek Tailings Disposal Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) in opposition to the Forest Service approving the expansion of the mine’s tailings dump.
The Forest Service had failed to ensure that the mining activities would be compatible with the values of the Admiralty Monument, which is a violation of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and the National Forest Management Act.
Challenging the Prospect of More Pollution in Ward Cove
SEACC, with its partners the Tongass Conservation Society and the Natural Resource Defense Council, filed a request for a hearing with the Department of Environmental Conservation to stay a permit allowing the Ketchikan Gateway Borough to discharge bark and other wood waste from the dumping, storage, and transfer of logs in Ward Cove, which is a Superfund Site.
The request was granted by Commissioner Ballard, and all parties were allowed to submit written arguments on the important issues raised by SEACC and its partners.
Forest Service Drops 10-Year Timber Contract
SEACC and allies won a significant victory when the Forest Service and Viking Lumber Company agreed to a partial settlement reducing the Fusion timber sales contract from 10 to five years. The contract would have effectively given the timber industry a 10-year claim to public forest lands, and this victory meant the defeat of a new form of timber contract that sells our forests on pennies for the dollar, as well as keeping logging out of roadless areas of the Tongass.
Roadless Rule Reaches Dead-End
On May 5, 2005, the Bush Administration formally announced the new rule replacing protections for roadless areas across the country with a cumbersome state petition process weighted heavily against any state achieving roadless area protections in any National Forest.
Governors of states, including Alaska, will have to petition the United States Department of Agriculture in order to extend roadless protection to these ecologically vibrant areas.
Danger for Marine Animals and SEACC Appeal Denied
On March 2, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released its long-awaited review of Coeur Alaska’s Kensington Mine’s potential adverse impacts on humpback whales and Steller sea lions in Berners Bay. Although NMFS concluded that the construction and operation of the mine’s two terminals weren’t likely to jeopardize the survival of these two species, it expected that the mine would adversely affect individual animals.
That same week, the Forest Service denied SEACC’s appeal to their decision to allow the mine on all counts. SEACC kept a sharp eye out for state and federal permits issued to Coeur Alaska from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the State of Alaska.
Taku River Community Blow Out the Tulsequah Mine
The sheer quantity and substantive nature of comments collected during the public comment period for the Tulsequah Chief Mine on the Taku River threw a huge wrench in the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans fast track schedule for permitting the mine.
Tongass Agreement Safeguards Road-Free Valley
Six conservation groups, the State of Alaska, Alaska Forest Association, and the U.S. Forest Service settled a portion of the challenge to the 1997 Tongass Land Management Plan. The agreement cancels a timber sale that would log the last road-free valley in Thorne Arm near Ketchikan.
But timber for local mills was still provided. Aurah Landau, SEACC’s Outreach Director, said, “This settlement is very practical. We’re ensuring that local mills have the timber they need while the court continues to focus on solving serious problems with the mistakenly high logging level set in the 1997 Forest Plan-problems that the Forest Service has admitted to.”
June 23, 2008
SEACC Appeals Iyoutug Timber Sale
In 2007, SEACC engaged a broad range of local Hoonah voices to develop a community-based forest plan that protects important community-use and conservation values while still providing timber to the local mills. The Iyouktug sale conflict with these goals by offering a high volume of timber in areas that are still reeling from decades of intensive clear-cutting.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski Introduces Sealaska Lands Bill
Sen. Lisa Murkowski introduced Senate Bill 3651 to address Sealaska Corporation’s outstanding land entitlement claims in Southeast Alaska. The bill is nearly identical to the House bill introduced by Rep. Don Young, with only minor changes offered to address some of the many concerns raised by Southeast Alaskans.
SEACC supported finding a resolution to outstanding Native land claims in Southeast Alaska, but this bill, as written, was not our preferred way. Many people on the Tongass are beginning to take a more holistic approach to manage the forest. SEACC expressed hope that Sealaska will coordinate with others in Southeast Alaska to make sure its needs are met in a way that works for all people in the region.
Agreement Reached on Iyouktug Timber Sale
After weeks of working together, SEACC, Sitka Conservation Society, and the Forest Service partially resolved the conservation groups’ appeal of the proposed Iyouktug timber sale on Chichagof Island near Hoonah.
SEACC used recommendations from our Hoonah Community Forest Project to craft the resolution to meet the shared goals of protecting valuable parts of the forest, restoring damaged wildlife habitat, and providing a plan that works for the community of Hoonah.
U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Kensington Case
SEACC challenged the Army Corps’ decision to allow Coeur Alaska, Inc. to dump mine tailings into a fish-bearing lake because it could have serious implications for Berners Bay. Additionally, allowing the Kensington Mine to dump its tailings into a lake would set a dangerous precedent that could pave the way for other mines to use our nation’s waters as mine waste dumps, placing the health of downstream water at risk.
Reasonable alternatives to lake dumping exist. In fact, SEACC worked with Coeur Alaska to come up with an alternative tailings disposal method, the “paste tailings plan.” But Coeur abandoned the permitting process for the paste plan and instead chose to gamble with Juneau’s jobs and clean water in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Finally, Congressional Action
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included “$2.4 million for forest restoration and other work in Alaska’s national forests. Most of this money will come to the Tongass.”
For the first time in over a decade, Congress chose not to spend additional money subsidizing Tongass timber sales. SEACC has fought these subsidies, called the Tongass Timber Pipeline, for years and was encouraged that Congress finally saw them for the waste they are.
Alaska Supreme Court Rejects Transfer of State Land
SEACC challenged the transfer after numerous Southeast residents expressed concern about losing highly used public lands to be transferred to the University of Alaska. The court’s decision keeps about 200,000 acres of state land in public ownership. SEACC argued that the land transfer amounted to a “dedicated fund.”
Kensington’s Permit to Dump Waste Into Waters Is Upheld
This U.S. Supreme Court decision allowed mines and other polluters with a large number of solids in their waste to dump toxic waste into America’s — oftentimes fish-bearing — lakes and streams by simply calling it “fill material.”
This permit relied on a Bush-era change in the definition of “fill material” that allowed for the disposal of waste, the same rule change that has allowed for the destructive practice of mountain-top removal coal mining in Appalachia. The massive proposed Pebble Mine in Southwest Alaska is the next project waiting to exploit this loophole.
Forest Service Offers 72 Million Board Feet
Tongass Supervisor Forrest Cole requested conservation input on the Logjam Timber Sale on Prince of Wales island, so SEACC and other conservation groups worked with the State of Alaska, wildlife biologists, local mills, and others to design an alternative that would supply 37 million board feet for the local mills while preserving large tracts of the most critical wildlife habitat in the project area.
Forest Supervisor Cole rejected this well-researched, middle ground approach and chose to offer 72 million board feet.
Roadless Bills Introduced
These would codify into law the Clinton administration’s 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule. SEACC’s focus was on preserving the biological heart of the Tongass which includes both roaded and unroaded wildlands. Enacting the Roadless Rule on the Tongass in law could help us reach part of that goal.
October 27, 2009
Senate Campaign Debate Highlights Sealaska Land Bill
Controversy erupted over a bill sponsored by Lisa Murkowski allowing full conveyance of the lands allocated to Sealaska Regional Corporation by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) when it appeared that the selection would include trading areas of low-quality timber lands with prime land selections outside of areas, allocated under ANCSA.
The proposed swaps would, in effect, impact the use of the selected areas by other communities and residents of the Tongass that also rely on the forest’s abundance for recreation and their livelihoods.
March 4, 2011
A Roadless Rule Victory
U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick rejected arguments by the Bush administration that the Tongass Roadless Rule would hurt communities and jobs.
The court essentially found that claims the rule would prevent hydro and road development, hinder mining, and hurt the local economy were largely “implausible,” “not supported by any evidence,” and “speculative at best.”
March 25, 2013
Roadless Rule Survives Legal Challenge
On March 25, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the State of Alaska’s latest attempt to challenge the Roadless Rule as “untimely.”