(photo from the Sealaska Shareholder’s Underground)
In a recent Letter to the Editor in the Sitka Sentinel, the President and CEO of Sealaska Corporation attempted to waylay our fears that the public would not be allowed on lands transferred to the corporation’s private ownership by the Sealaska Bill. He also stated that Sealaska does “not post ‘No Trespassing in any form on [Sealaska Corp.] lands,” and goes on to state that “Sealaska stands on its history, having allowed access to its lands for responsible use.”
Update: See our full response, published May 10th in the Sitka Sentinel at the bottom of the post.
The mission of the Sitka Conservation Society is to protect the public lands of the Tongass National Forest. As public lands, they belong to all Americans as National Patrimony. Although lands in public hands are not always managed how we want, the process exists for citizens to have their voices heard and give input on how the lands are managed. Most importantly, public access is guaranteed and not restricted in anyway. If important sites on the Tongass like Redoubt Lake are privatized and owned by Sealaska Corporation, they are no longer part of all our national patrimony and the public does not have a say in how they are managed. Sealaska Corporation says that they will allow “unprecedented access.” Whatever that is, it is nothing compared to current access on these lands that all of us currently own as American citizens.
Our greatest fears concerning the potential in-holding parcels that the Sealaska Corporation wants to own is not what may happen in the next few years, but what will happen 10, 20, or 30 years from now. We understand that Sealaska will make many promises now when they want support for their legislation. But we can’t predict what future Sealaska Corporate boards might decide to do with the land and who may or may-not be allowed to use them. These fears are what unsettles us the most about the Sealaska legislation.
Below is the current Sealaska policy for access to its lands which clearly states access is per their discretion:
Letter to the Editor, published in the Sitka Sentinel May 10th, 2013.
Dear Editor: Recently the Sealaska Corporation’s President and Corporate Executive Officer (CEO), Chris McNeil called out the Sitka Conservation Society in a letter to the editor and called us out for causing “anxiety, anger, and opposition” to Sealaska’s actions. I would respond to Mr. McNeil that we are not causing this reaction, we are responding to it as it is what most of us in the community feel when we think of public lands like Redoubt Falls, Port Banks, Jamboree Bay, Kalinin Bay, and places in Hoonah Sound being taking out of public hands and put into corporate ownership. We did put graphics with cartoon police tape over a photo of SItkans subsistence dip-net fishing at Redoubt falls. They can be seen on our website at www.sitkawild.org. These graphics represent our greatest fears: that a place that all of us use and depend on, and that is owned by all Americans (native and non-native), will have limitations put on it under private ownership or will be managed in a way where members of the public have no voice or input. Our fears come from past Sealaska actions. We also put photos on our website of Sealaska logging on Dall Island and around Hoonah; and we linked to the story of Hoonah residents who asked that logging not be so extensive and target their treasured places but were logged anyway. The case in those areas is that the corporate mandate to make a profit superseded what community members wanted. We are scared of what corporate management of these important places around Sitka will mean on-the-ground and we will continue to speak out to protect our public lands. Mr. McNeil Jr. paints the issue as native vs. non-native and accuses SCS of wanting to “put natives in a box.” For us, the issue is about distrust of corporations without public accountability, not ethnicity. Mr. McNeil has an annual compensation package that is far greater than the entire SCS budget. He is flanked by lawyers who can write legal language and policy that we cannot begin to understand the implications of. Even in their different versions of the House and Senate legislation, the access policy is very different, confusing, and ultimately subject to Sealaska’s whims. As SCS, we are speaking out against a corporation owning the public lands where publicly owned resources are concentrated on the Tongass. Sealaska’s legislation is not good for Sitka if it means that more places like Redoubt Falls could be taken out of public hands and transferred to a corporation. Sincerely, Andrew Thoms
In 2011, SCS began the Sitka Salmon Tours program. The goal of the tours was to give visitors a salmon’s eye view from the forests where the salmon are born, to the ocean, the fisher and processor, and finally to our plates. We’ve discontinued the Salmon Tours for 2013. Instead, we have distilled all of the great facts, stories, and natural history from the tours into this manual, “Sitka: A Tongass Salmon Town.” Now anyone can be an expert on wild Tongass Salmon. We hope that Sitka residents, guides, and naturalist will use this guide to share the miracle of salmon that attracts tens of thousands of visitors to this place each year.
Printed guides are available at the Sitka Conservation Society office. If you’d like us to mail you a copy, send a request to [email protected] Bulk copies are available for purchase at-cost (about $0.80 per copy).
Download a copy of the manual HERE.
The first of six boat tours to take place throughout the summer. Mark your calendars!
- June 1st, Saturday 10am
- June 11th, Tuesday 5:30pm – Cancelled
- June 27th, Thursday 5:30pm
- July 23rd, Tuesday 5:30pm
- August 13th, Tuesday 5:30pm
Check back soon for more information on tour topics and speakers. See you on the boat!
A special thanks to Allen Marine for offering discounted charter prices for our non-profit summer tours, which makes this series possible.
The Student Science Sharing night last Monday, April 29 was a huge success. This was our second year of celebrating student learning in the ecological sciences. We had over 100 students and community members participate, and we had student projects from Sitka and Mt. Edgecumbe High Schools, Blatchley Middle School, and Keet Gooshi Heen.
This event is more than just a science fair. It’s an opportunity for the community and students to interact and share learning on topics that affect the long-term sustainability of our community. We are surrounding by public lands and depend upon the bounty of the sea and land to sustain our quality of life. Integrating community, young people, scientists, and natural resource managers in a shared learning experience will help ensure that we make well-informed decisions about managing these resources.
The Science Night was the culmination of the work of many people and organizations. It was supported by Sitka Conservation Society, University of Alaska Southeast, Sitka Sound Science Center, Sitka School District and Mt. Edgecumbe High School. But the people that did most of the work were the students!
THIS CLASS IS FULL. To sign up for the waiting list, send your name, email and phone number to [email protected]
SCS is organizing a spring edibles course with the Kayaani Commission and instructors Scott Brylinsky and Kitty LaBounty. Students will learn how to identify, harvest, and prepare wild edibles from three distinct habitats in the Tongass.
Registration is required for all three classes:
May 7 and 9, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m
May 11 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
The class is free and space is limited. For more information or to register contact [email protected] or call 747-7509
The Science Mentor Program is accepting applications for the 2013/2014 school year. This is the third year of this highly popular and successful program. Last year, students studied wintering songbirds in Sitka and conducted genetic research on the decline of Alaska yellow cedar. Students from any of Sitka’s 3 high schools are encouraged to apply. We will also have an informational meeting at Sitka High School, May 7, 1145am to 1220pm. Follow the links below for a program description and application. Contact Scott Harris at [email protected] for more information.
Ever wonder where the idea of wilderness came from?
Follow the first explorers of Alaska, like Georg Steller, the German naturalist aboard the S/V Gabriel with Vitus Bering upon the first “discovery” of Alaska’s coast or the Episcopal priest Hudson Struck who made the first ascent of Denali, as they struggle to frame their experiences in this wild lands. Look through John Muir’s eyes during his adventures in Glacier Bay. Travel with Mardy and Olaus Murie’s to the interior rivers. Explore the Brooks Range with Bob Marshall. We will see how these writers formed the idea of wilderness, and how the wilderness inspired their writing.
This lecture will be presented by Adam Andis and is part of the Backwoods and Water Lecture Series. Andis wrote his undergraduate thesis on wilderness in Alaskan nature writing. He now manages the Wilderness Stewardship Program at Sitka Conservation Society. He has a degree in Environmental Studies with emphasis in Wilderness Philosophy and is a founding board member of the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance.
Sunday, May 12th from 5:00 to 6:00 pm at the Kettleson Library.
SITKA CONSERVATION SOCIETY PARTNERS WITH RUNNING FAMILY!
Brett, Kris, David, and Olivia Wilcox are pleased to announce that the Sitka Conservation Society is now partnering with them as they run across America in their efforts to raise awareness about genetically modified organisms that can pose a danger to health and the environment. The Sitka Conservation Society has done extensive advocacy work opposing genetically modified salmon as well as community work to build sustainable food systems. They are partnering with Running The Country because of our joint concerns about genetically modified organisms.
The Wilcox family got their inspiration to run across the country in 2010 when David learned of a teen-aged girl who completed the transcontinental run. “I want to do that!” David said. Over time, David convinced Brett and Kris that he was serious. They decided they would run to promote healthy lifestyles and healthy food choices. “And a big part of healthy eating,” Brett states, “is knowing what’s in our food.”
If successful, David will become the youngest person to complete this run, and David and Brett will become the first father and son team to do so.
While undertaking the run, the Wilcox’s will stop at community centers, public events, scheduled talks, and in public forums, to speak about and raise awareness on genetically modified organisms, their run, and what people can do to secure a safe, non-GMO food supply.
The Sitka Conservation Society sees this project as a great partnership to raise awareness on these important issues. Executive Director Andrew Thoms is enthusiastic about the
program, “We are facing a really scary threat with genetically modified salmon in Alaska. Our community’s livelihoods are intricately connected to Wild Alaska Salmon. Introducing a Frankenstein salmon into the environment could cause disastrous consequences to our wild salmon stocks and our local industry. The more people that know about this threat, the better. Running The Country will help spread the word about what people want for our food system and counter the voices of large food corporations that are pushing GMO foods.”
David showed his appreciation for Alaska’s wild and natural environment while speaking at a “No GMO Salmon” rally in February in Sitka protesting potential FDA approval of the mutant fish. David quoted one of his inspirations in the rally, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
“GMO salmon is evil, David added. “By being here today and protesting against GMO salmon, you are standing up for what is right.”
“The GMO issue is especially important right now,” Brett says. “California’s Proposition 37 was narrowly defeated in November after Monsanto and other pro-biotech interests poured $46 million into the state, convincing people that GMO food labels would cost too much.”
A 2012 poll of likely voters found that 91% support labeling. (1) “People will argue for many years about the safety of genetically modified foods,” says Brett. “Safe or not, we have a right to know what’s in our food. We also have a right to know who’s profiting from our food choices. With Monsanto’s 100+ year legacy of pollution, corruption, and lies, I personally can not morally justify spending one dime on one Monsanto product.” (2)
Running across America is no small undertaking, and the Wilcox family is raising money and accepting contributions for their efforts. The runners gratefully accept credit cards, PayPal or donations by check. Donations may be made directly on the runners’ web site, runningthecountry.com.
All donations are tax deductible and a receipt will be provided.
For more information regarding the run and the GMO issue, please refer to runningthecountry.com.
1. Mark Mellman, The Hill, April 17, 2012, http://thehill.com/opinion/columnists/mark-mellman/222129-majority-want-more-labels-on-food
2. Jeffrey M. Smith, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating, (Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA, 2003)