It is getting to be that time of the year when Sitkans begin to digtheir dipnets out of the shed and get them ready for the return of Sockeye at Redoubt Lake. Luckily, it is still in public hands this year and we can still fish there. We hope that will be the case forever and it will be in public hands and have public access. Here's some background on this issue.
If you want Redoubt to continue to be in public hands, please help us by taking action. Below is a letter that SCS is sending to the Sitka assembly following a visit from the Sealaska Corporation to a recent assembly meeting.
Please let us know if you would like to sign on to the letter. Or, consider writing your own letter to the Sitka assembly at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
June 6th, 2012
Dear Assembly Members:
In comments to the Assembly last month, Sealaska Corporation attorney Jaeleen Araujo gave the same assurances as she has in the past regarding continued public use of Redoubt Falls following a conveyance of the property to the corporation. We appreciate Ms. Araujo's comments, but there are still no guarantees about the future of Redoubt Falls.
At this point, the Redoubt conveyance has been put on hold, while a color of title petition filed by the trustees of Sheldon Jackson College is being resolved. The delay is a blessing, providing us an opportunity to again consider the best scenario for continued public use of Redoubt.
For now, Sealaska seems intent on entering a Memorandum of Understanding with the city and the Sitka Tribe, which would promise long-term public access to Redoubt. Unfortunately, Section 17(b) of ANCSA specifically states that access cannot be granted -- only an easement to pass over the land is allowed. This means the MOU would be an empty promise with no long-term guarantee.
The City's legal team itself has said that an MOU is insufficient. It has argued a deed restriction with a strict conservation easement and access language is the only thing that comes close to giving the public the same access as it has now. The only thing that we can see that would allow the access the Sealaska is promising is a deed restriction. The City Assembly and City Staff must demand a deed restriction and not settle for an MOU that does not hold long-term, binding commitments.
However, our preferred alternative remains that Sealaska withdraw its selection of Redoubt Falls and enter into a cooperative management agreement with the City, Forest Service, and Sitka Tribe. Under such an agreement Sealaska and the Sitka Tribe could develop a management scheme to protect the historic properties on the parcel, while language would also protect continued public access the shoreline for fishing and for the Forest Service to access and operate its fish weir and preserve any cultural and heritage resources at the site (including Russian American operations at the site).
We ask that the City steer away from the proposed MOU and instead work toward a solution that will guarantee the public will continue to have access to the subsistence fishery at Redoubt Falls for generations to come.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Executive Director, Sitka Conservation Society