Sealaska Bill: A Threat to Public Lands

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The following letter was submitted to the Sitka Sentinel by SCS.

Dear Editor:

The current version of the Sealaska legislation is scheduled for a hearing on April 25thin the Senate Public Lands Subcommittee. This Sealaska bill is a threat to the public lands of the Tongass and to the ways that Sitkans use the Tongass. This legislation would transfer lands on the Tongass to Sealaska that are outside of the original boxes where they were allowed to select lands. The legislation would affect us in Sitka because the corporation is asking for in-holdings throughout the Sitka Ranger District that are some of the most valuable areas for access and use. The bill would allow the corporation to select in-holdings in North-Arm/Hoonah Sound, Kalinin Bay, Fick Cove, Lake Eva, Wrangell Island off Biorka, Port Banks, and many others. On Prince of Wales Island, the corporation has cherry-picked the lands that have the highest concentration of the remaining economically valuable cedar trees, the oldest and fastest growing second growth, and the timber stands that have the most investment made by taxpayer dollars in roads, culverts, and forest thinning.

The in-holding selections might seem familiar topic. The corporation is selecting them in the same process they are using for Redoubt Lake. It is claiming that fishing access areas are eligible for selection under authorities that were meant for cemeteries. In the case of Redoubt Lake that means that one of the most important sites for public use and subsistence on the Sitka Ranger District could be privatized and owned by a corporation that has a for-profit mandate and is run by a board of directors that has created its own closed circle of power (remember when Sitkans tried to get elected to that board). The CEO of Sealaska came to Sitka a few weeks ago and made many promises about public access. That all sounded good, but how long is he going to be around? None of the agreements they proposed are legally binding. What happens when their board of directors decides that they don't want to allow everyone to fish there anymore? What happens when they decide that they "are obliged to make profit for their shareholders" and the best way to do that could be to capitalize on the asset of Redoubt Lake and build a lodge on the island between the two falls? Promises made today don't necessarily stand the test of time when lands are not in public hands and are not managed by a publically accountable entity.

For all of the above reasons, SCS will be telling members of theSenate Public Lands Subcommittee that the Sealaska Legislation is not good for the Tongass and not good for Southeast Alaska. Information on how to contact members of that committee can be found on the SCS

Andrew Thoms

Executive Director

Sitka Conservation Society


Update: Sealaska Corporation's CEO recently issued a response to the above editorial. He also complained about the photos below. He called them "unethical," "mysterious," "misinformation."

Of course our photos of Redoubt Falls with no trespassing signs are fabricated, that is because (thankfully) this area is still in public hands where everyone, including Sealaska shareholders, have equal rights to utilize this place. The photos we didn't need to fabricate are the images of Sealaska Corp's logging practices on land they currently own on Dall Island. (Watch this Google Earth tour to see for yourself.*) But don't take our word for it; take a look at the short video Hoonah's Legacy, showing the massive clearcuts logged by Sealaska Corp that scarred that community's landscape. Or, visit the Sealaska Shareholders Underground's Facebook page to hear about shareholders who disagree with the Corporation, but who have so far been suppressed by Sealaska and prevented from allowing any new voices onto the Sealaska board of directors.

Based on history and the facts, it is hard to see how allowing a profit-driven corporation like Sealaska to take away public lands from Alaskans would be "good for Sitkans, the Tongass and for Southeast Alaska." If you agree, please consider writing a Letter to the Editor of your local paper and share this information with your friends and community.

* This is a Google Earth tour (.kmz file). You must have Google Earthinstalledon your computer to view the tour.
Please encourage your friends and relatives living in states listed below to call their Senator.

Key Senate Public Lands Subcommittee Members:

Oregon-Senator Ron Wyden(202) 224-5244

Washington-Senator Maria Cantwell(202) 224-3441

Michigan-Senator Debbie Stabenow (202)224-4822

Colorado-Senator Mark Udall(202) 224-5941

New Mexico-Senator Mark Heinrich(202) 224-5521

Minnesota-Senator Al Franken(202) 224-5641




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