The Sealaska Lands Legislation has passed out of committee in both the House and Senate, and could go before the full House and Senate for approval as early as sometime in July. If approved, the Legislation would privatize over 70,000 acres of the Tongass, including parcels near Sitka at Kalinin Bay, Lake Eva, Fick Cove, and North Arm.
The Sealaska Legislation has been introduced three prior times, and has previously passed out of the House but has never before been subject to a vote by the full Senate. All indications are that the current version of the Bill will reach a Senate vote, and so it is critical to reach out to members of Congress explaining why the Bill would be bad for us in Sitka and bad for Southeast Alaska as a whole.
The current House and Senate versions of the Bill are wildly different, with the Senate version (S.340) being considered a compromise containing fewer inholdings, provisions for public access for fishing, and expanded stream buffers in some timber selections. That said, the Senate Bill would still transfer 70,000 acres of the Tongass to a private corporation and would lead to clear-cutting some of the largest and oldest trees remaining on the Tongass. Should both the House and Senate versions pass they would go a conference committee to iron out the differences between the two versions. Sealaska has publically said it would prefer legislation enacted that is more like the House version than the Senate version, so we can only imagine what its lobbyists are telling members of Congress.
Letters, emails, and phone calls from Southeast Alaska residents have made a difference in keeping prior versions of the Sealaska Legislation from passing, but none of that outreach will have an impact on members of Congress when they take up the Legislation once again. They need to hear from us again and be reminded that the Tongass is a National Forest that belongs to everyone and that we in Southeast Alaska depend on this public forest for our livelihoods and our ways of life.
The Tongass National Forest provides our communities with subsistence foods, a thriving economy, and an inestimable cultural heritage. 31 communities are located within the Tongass, including 22 Federally recognized tribes who have been here since time immemorial. The Roadless Rule protects the Tongass from unsustainable industrial-scale logging and fosters sustainable development in Southeast Alaska. The Trump administration has pressured the Forest Service to remove the Roadless Rule from the Tongass, which would damage the environment, economy, and way of life for communities. This decision goes aganist the wishes of the majority of Southeast Alaskans—tribal governments, local organizations and businesses, and communities—who have spoken in favor of keeping it in place.
- Take Action: Write a comment to your elected officials with our comment tool!: https://mobilize4change.org/MP6rV6a
- Share the tool with friends, family, and on social media! These are all Americans' public lands; let's get everyone speaking out.
- Write a letter to the editor to tell your community why YOU are speaking out for the Tongass. Email [email protected] for support to get started.
Call your elected officials and let them know that you support bringing the Roadless Rule back:
📞 Governor Mike Dunleavy: (907) 465-3500
📞 Senator Dan Sullivan: (202) 224-3004
📞 Senator Lisa Murkowski: (202)-224-6665
📞 Representative Don Young (202) 225-5765
- Write a comment in support of the Tongass Tribes’ petition for a Traditional Homelands Conservation Rule: https://mobilize4change.org/zakXEDp
Other ways to take action
Encourage your representatives to look ahead
Tell your congressional leaders that as we recover from COVID-19 and work to strengthen our economy that you want them to support Tongass Forest Management Stewardship and Restoration.
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Stay up to date on the issues and programs to protect Salmon and the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska by joining our newsletter and following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
Take action to protect your public lands HERE.The following letter was submitted to the Sitka Sentinel by SCS.
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 website:www.sitkawild.org.
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
Colorado-Senator Mark Udall(202) 224-5941
New Mexico-Senator Mark Heinrich(202) 224-5521
Minnesota-Senator Al Franken(202) 224-5641
Salmon, water, and the Alaskans who depend on them need your help!
[dropcap]Background:[/dropcap] Right now, the Alaska State Senate is debating whether or not they should make it more difficult for Alaskans to protect the water in their backyards for salmon habitat. HB77, the In-Stream Water Reservations Bill, would convolute an already convoluted public process, eliminating the requirement for public comment periods. It would also give the Department of Natural Resources Commissioner the authority to issue General Permits for industrial operations if the commissioner determines the project will not cause "significant or irreparable harm" to Alaskans and issue permits that would directly and negatively impact salmon habitat if the commissioner determines it is in the "best interest of Alaska."
As a reminder, the Department of Natural Resources no longer values future generations—they eliminated "future generations" from their mission statement last year.
Additionally, HB77 intends to revoke certain rights from Alaskan individuals, organizations, and tribes, and gives the government of Alaska authority on whether or not salmon and water are as important as industrial development. In other words, this bill protects Outside interests at the expense of local Alaskans. For an example of DNR siding against Alaskans in favor of Outside interests, and why this bill is relevant to all Alaskans, click here.
- Alaskans need more opportunities to preserve salmon and our unique way of life, not fewer
- HB77 protects the right for Outside interests to take water out of salmon streams while making it more difficult for Alaskans to keep water in salmon streams
- The bill gives DNR discretion to negatively impact salmon habitat if it is in the "Best Interest" of the State of Alaska
- It eliminates the requirement for DNR to open public comment periods on "Best Interest Findings"
- 95% of public testimony opposed HB77, including fishing organizations, Alaska Native Tribal councils, city councils, fishermen, hunters, and every day residents
Alaska's fish and water need you to stand up and take action immediately. There are two ways you can help: You can write a My Turn in the Juneau Empire, or you can contact the Alaska State Senate Coastal Caucus and let them know you oppose HB77, a bill that revokes certain rights from Alaskans, eliminates the requirement for public comment periods at DNR, and gives DNR discretion to impact salmon habitat for the benefit of Outside companies.
[email protected] 465-3873
[email protected] 465-4947
[email protected] 465-2828
[email protected] 465-4925
[email protected] 465-3707
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
SCS's short documentary Restoring America's Salmon Forest was selected to show at the Alaska Forum on the Environment Film Festival on Friday, February 8, 2013 in Anchorage. The film focuses on a multi-agency effort to increase salmon returns on the Sitkoh River in Southeast Alaska's Chichagof Island, by improving the spawning and rearing habitat and redirecting a river that was heavily damaged by logging operations in the 1970s.
In the heyday of the Southeast Alaska timber industry, little regard was paid to the needs of salmon. Streams were frequently blocked and diverted, with streams in 70 major watersheds remaining that way decades later. Salmon surpassed timber in economic importance in Southeast Alaska more than two decades ago, but only in the last few years has the Forest Service finally made a serious effort to repair damaged streams. Currently over 7,000 jobs in Southeast Alaska are tied to the fishing industry, compared to about 200 in the timber industry. The Forest Service spends about three times as much on timber related projects as fisheries and restoration projects each year on the Tongass.
While salmon are responsible for 10 times as many jobs in Southeast Alaska as timber, and are also an important food source and a critical part of our cultural identity, the Forest Service still puts timber over salmon in its budget priorities. Recent Forest Service budgets have dedicated in the range of $22 million a year to timber and road building, compared to less than $2 million a year to restoring salmon streams damaged by past logging, despite a $100 million backlog of restoration projects.
Logging damages watersheds by diverting streams, blocking fish passage, and eliminating crucial spawning and rearing habitat structures. Restoration increases salmon returns by removing debris, redirecting streams, stabilizing banks to prevent erosion, and even thinning dense second-growth forest. We believe it simply makes sense to go back and repair habitat if you are responsible for its damage.
TAKE ACTION:Please contact your representatives in Washington to tell them the ways you depend on Tongass salmon, and tell them you support managing the Tongass for salmon and permanently protecting important salmon producing watersheds. Tell them it is time to redirect funds from the bloated timber budget to the salmon restoration budget, and finally transitioning away from the culture of old-growth timber to sustainable practices recognizing all resources and opportunities.
What to say:Check out the talking points in this post for some ideas of what you might include in your letters or calls.
Contact:Undersecretary Robert Bonnie Department of Natural Resources and the Environment U.S. Department of Agriculture 1400 Independence Ave., S.W. Washington, DC 20250 Email:[email protected] Senator Lisa Murkowski 709 Hart Senate Building Washington, DC 20510 Email: [email protected] Senator Mark Begich 825C Hart Senate Building Washington, DC 20510 Email: [email protected] If you have questions, contact the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509 or [email protected]
Produced by Bethany Goodrich, a summer staffer at the Sitka Conservation Society, "Restoring Alaska's Salmon Forest" provides a brief look at how a restoration project looks on the ground and what such a project can accomplish in terms of salmon returns.
[frame src="http://archive.sitkawild.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/sitka-gmo-rally.jpg" width="300" height="300" linkstyle="normal"]
The event will take place on Saturday, February 9th, from 1:00 to 1:30 pm, at the Crescent Harbor Shelter.
This a quick get together to show public opposition to the pending FDA approval. It's not too late to comment to the FDA, come learn why and how!
I'm inviting the press, so we really want a great showing.FRANKENFISH are a danger to our wild stocks,and to the marketplace.
Find out more about this issue by clicking the link below
The Sitka Conservation Society applauds the efforts of Senator Mark Begich to stop the Food and Drug Administration from allowing genetically modified salmon to be produced and sold to consumers. Senator Begich has called out the FDA for its recent finding that genetically modified salmon will have "no significant impact" on the environment or public health.
Like all Southeast Alaskans, Senator Begich understands very well the importance of salmon to our lives and livelihoods. Senator Begich understands that Wild Salmon are critical to our economy, our way-of-life, and is a keystone component of Southeast Alaska's terrestrial and marine environment. Senator Begich has taken a stand to protect our Wild Alaska Salmon.
Thank you Senator Begich for protecting Salmon.
Senator Begich has asked hisconstituentsto weigh in and tell the Food and Drug Administration that we don't want Genetically Modified Salmon. Please help him out by telling the FDA your feelings by following this link and following the "Comment Now" prompt: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FDA-2011-N-0899-0003
For an idea on how to comment, read SCS comments: here
To read Senator Begich's press release, click: here
To read an editorial on Genetically Modified Salmon by a former SCS employee, click: here
Background: In Sitka, we take climate change seriously--so seriously that the community just invested $96 million dollars into a hydroelection project at Blue Lake that will greatly cut our fossil fuel consumption.
The project came at an enormous price, but the benefits to the climate and our quality of life are worth the price. Unfortunately, most of that cost has fallen on the shoulders of our community. Despite efforts by SCS and the City of Sitka, the project has received no money from the federal government and only a small amount from the State of Alaska (which is a small fraction of the subsidies and support given to oil corporations every year). For the most part, the burden has fallen to the community of Sitka because oil companies have invested so much of their resources into convincing politicians that funding big oil is more important than funding sustainable communities. The result is that we are far behind where we need to be in moving our country and our economy in a direction away from fossil fuels to a renewable energy based economy.
Take Action: SCS is asking Senator Murkowski and the Senate Energy Committee to stand up for small towns, the climate, and a sustainable future. Please help us take action to demand that our politicians take climate change seriously. Write or call Senator Murkowski today.
Write:Senator Lisa Murkowski 709 Hart Senate Building Washington, DC 20510 [/one_fourth]
Email:Visit the Senator's comment page. [/one_fourth]
Call:D.C.: 202-224-6665 Juneau: 907-586-7277 [/one_fourth_last]
Check out the letter we wrote below for ideas.
Dear Senator Murkowski and Members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee:
Climate change is the greatest threat to our way-of-life and national security. Climate change is caused by human activity that put amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at levels that are changing global climate and weather patterns. We know that these changes are disrupting agricultural production, global shipping, and causing more extreme weather events that put our coastal cities at risk.
Human caused climate change is happening because of our use of fossil fuels. Oil, gas, and coal have formed through biological and geological processes over millions of years. Human activity in the last 300 years since the beginning of the industrial revolution has burned a large number of those deposits of fossil fuels and put amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere far above normal natural/geological processes. It is known that the burning of fossil fuels has increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from 275 Parts-per-million to 390 parts-per-million. It is impossible for this change to happen without severe side-effects.
At the same time that the impacts of climate change are becoming apparent, we are seeing the end of fossil fuels. At this point, we must make greater investment and go to greater lengths to extract oil, gas, and coal from the earth. We are being forced to go into extreme oceans like the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea where conditions are extremely difficult and risky to operate in. We are forced to drill much deeper into the earth in areas of extremely high pressures as well as drill in very deep ocean waters. We are forced to use techniques like fracking that have consequences that we aren't even fully aware of to access oil and gas. All of the above is being done without acknowledging the inevitable fact that fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource that will run out.
American citizens are relying on your leadership. And yet, more and more it seems that Congressional policy seeks to favor the biggest corporate donors rather than take action that equates to good policy for the future of our nation. We have known about climate change for decades. Oil companies have invested in distracting the public and calling into doubt the science—just like big tobacco did when public policy to reduce tobacco deaths was being initiated. The result is that we are far behind where we need to be in moving our country and our economy in a direction away from fossil fuels and carbon emissions to a renewable energy based economy.
Despite the lack of significant and meaningful action from our elected leaders in Washington, DC, Americans across the country are stepping up and taking action. Here in our small town of Sitka, Alaska, where we live very close to the natural environment and can see the changes and impacts of climate change first-hand, we have decided to take action in a big way. This past December we broke ground on a $96 Million dollar, salmon-friendly hydroelectric expansion project. Most of the cost of this project is on the shoulders of the community members in Sitka. We have received support from the State of Alaska (which is a small fraction of the subsidies and support given to oil corporations) but we have received no help from the federal government.
We are asking you what you are going to do in this next session of Congress to take meaningful action to move our national energy policy in a direction that moves us away from a reliance on fossil fuels and reduces carbon emissions? In Sitka, we are tired of waiting for you to take action and we did it on our own. We are tired of the dynamic in Washington, DC and we implore you to take action for the sake of the future generations of our nation.
The Sitka Conservation Society
Background: The US Forest Service has adopted the Tongass Transition Framework, a program intended to shift forest management away from the out-dated and ill-fated old growth logging paradigm toward management that support multiple uses of the forest, including recreation, restoration, subsistence, and second-growth management. This is an encouraging recognition of the region's important natural resources, but the figures don't match the Forest Service's transition plan. Check out the figures here.
For example, the Forest Service still spends over $22 million a year on logging and road building, but only $6 million on recreation and tourism and $8 million on restoration and watershed. Our fishing industry relies on healthy watersheds and restoring damaged salmon stream. Our tourism industry relies on recreational facilities and wildplaces for visitors to get the Alaska experience. It just so happens that these are also the two biggest industries in Southeast, together supporting over 15,000 jobs and providing just under $2 BILLION to the local economy. Logging on the other hand only supports 200 jobs.
Take Action: Please ask the Forest Service to follow through with their Transition Framework and put their money where their mouth is. Write to the Undersecretary of Natural Resources, Harris Sherman.
Contact:Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 1400 Independence Ave. S.W. Washington, D.C. 20250 Please also send a copy to SCS at [email protected] so we can hand-deliver all of your letters to the Undersecretary himself in Washington, DC.
Some key point to include in your letter:
- Tourism and fishing are the two largest economic drivers in Southeast Alaska.
- Logging and road building cost tax payers $22.1M annually, while the Forest Service only spends $6.1 M annually on tourism and $8.1M annually on fisheries and watershed management. BUT, the timber industry only supports 200 jobs— tourism supports 10,200 and fishing supports 7,200.
- The Forest Service has adopted the Tongass Transition Framework, a program to transition from timber harvesting in roadless areas and old-growth forests to long-term stewardship contracts and young growth management. This is an encouraging recognition of the need to protect the region's natural resources and fundamental economic drivers: tourism and fishing, BUT the Forest Service needs to reflect this transition in their budget.
- Be sure to include your personal connection to the Tongass, it's forests and natural resources.
- Also, be sure to include how you rely on the Tongass—for subsistence, recreation, business, etc.