Senator Lisa Murkowski has reintroduced the Sealaska Lands Legislation, with the new version of the bill containing five selections in the Sitka area, some of which are in crucial subsistence and recreation areas.
The Sitka-area selections are 15.7 acres at Kalinin Bay, 10.6 acres at North Arm, 9 acres at Fick Cove, 10.3 acres at Lake Eva, and 13.5 acres at Deep Bay.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE SITES BELOW
Background: Murkowski's legislation, known as S.340, is the fourth version of the Sealaska Lands Legislation to be introduced in the last eight years. Like the three previous versions, the primary focus of this Legislation is to allow the Sealaska Corporation to make land selections outside the boundaries it agreed upon following the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The Legislation would lead to the privatization of over 70,000 acres of the Tongass and grant Sealaska access to substantially more old growth forest than if it made its selections within the previously agreed upon boundaries.
In fairness to Murkowski and Sealaska, the latest version of the Legislation is a significant improvement on prior versions of the Legislation, with the addition of timber stream buffers, removal of proposed "Natives Futures" development sites from the Sitka area, and the inclusion of new provisions for subsistence access in cultural and historic sites.
Most of the development lands in the Legislation are on Prince of Wales Island, and all of the Sitka-area selections are deceptively-labeled "cemetery and historic" sites. From the time the first version of the Legislation was introduced, the Sitka Conservation Society has held the position that we do not oppose Native management of important Native cultural and historic sites. Our problem has been that from our experience and review of agency practices concerning previous historic site applications, including that at Redoubt Falls near Sitka, the law is so loosely interpreted by the federal agencies tasked with determining what qualifies as a cemetery/historical site that virtually anything can be considered "historic." Indeed, we have seen little evidence to the historic value of most of the sites selected by Sealaska.
Under the new Legislation, Sealaska has selected 76 "cemetery and historic" sites around Southeast Alaska. For years we have said that the Tongass National Forest is large, but its greatest resources are concentrated in small areas like the mouths of streams and in safe anchorages. Thus, some of the spots with the richest resources in the Tongass might only take up a few acres. Many of Sealaska's proposed cemetery/historic sites selections are small in terms of acres, but the effect of making these spots private inholdings can be very "large" such as when they are located at "choke points" of access or cover the entire mouth of a stream. It might only takes two acres at the mouth of a stream to, in effect, control the whole stream.
SCS have told Senators Begich and Murkowski that we oppose the Sealaska Legislation, and we encourage you to do the same. SCS -- Sealaska Murkowski lettertoviewthe letter expressing our concerns. Please contact them and explain how you and your family use and rely on the parcels selected in the Legislation.
SITKA-AREA SITES OF IMPORTANT CONCERNS
The latest version of the Sealaska Lands Bill includes six cemetery and historic sites in the Sitka area. While some of these sites may contain important cultural artifacts, at this time we have seen little evidence and we would like to see a lot more. From past experience, most notably our work on Sealaska's pending selection of Redoubt Falls near Sitka, the standards for what qualifies as "historic" are extremely broad. Actual archeological evidence is not needed, and often sites are deemed historic by second hand oral accounts. Furthermore, from our experience, the agencies tasked with enforcing these loose standards are generally unwilling to raise objections or apply the law to its full extent.As noted, we have been given little information about the historic significance of the Sitka-area sites. About all we know is the site locations as listed here:
- Kalinin Bay Village (site 119). This is a tourism spot and is used for hunting and fishing. As recently as the 1960s, it was used as a fish camp, which included a store and diesel generating plant.
- Lake Eva Village (site 120). This includes trail access.
- Deep Bay Village (site 181). This area is widely used for hunting and fishing. The 1975 field investigation found no evidence of occupation.
- North Arm Village (site 187). This is a popular hunting, fishing and guided bear hunting location. The 1975 field investigation states: "This could possibly have been a village."
- Fick Cove Village (site 185). This is a popular hunting and subsistence area. The 1975 field investigation revealed the ruins of two cabins which may have been trapper cabins.
Take Action: If you or your family use these sites, please contact Senators Begich and Murkowski and tell them you do not want to lose access to public lands.
111 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
fax. (202) 224 - 2354
Toll-free line: (877) 501 - 6275
Email Senator Begich HERE
Email Senator Murkowski HERE