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800 Years

April 13, 2010

Here’s a nice video from the LA Times on the logging of the Tongass Forest, and specifically covering a proposal by Murkowski and Young to transfer up to 85,000 acres of Tongass forest to Sealaska Corp., which, as it happens, is owned by 20,000 members of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Tribes. So this is actually an interesting twist on forestry battles, raising questions about native american sovereignty and local versus corporate exploitation of forests. The full article is here.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The new proposal would give Sealaska not only prime forest lands on northern Prince of Wales Island — much of it already designated for timber harvest by the U.S. Forest Service — but $60 million worth of roads the Forest Service built over the years to open up the region for logging.

The proposal has drawn fire in a way hardly seen since the early settler days, pitting many of the non-Native homesteaders, fishermen and eco-tourism operators against Native leaders, who say that after decades of outside companies exploiting the Tongass, it is time for Alaska Natives to get more than the leftover lands nobody else wanted.

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4 comments

  1. I am only one individual, but please take a moment to consider my side of this issue, as what happens soon in Congress will have a tremendous impact on my future – a future that I have worked just as hard to build as any American has. I had to put myself through college while working full-time and earn every penny I’ve ever made through hard work, and the sum of my life’s savings is invested in my home in Edna Bay, the same home I hope to live in to my last day.

    If Sealaska is allowed to take ownership of the land they desire here on Kosciusko Island our lives here in Edna Bay will change in many negative ways. As you know we are a very remote community, and depend on subsistence hunting and gathering as much or more than any community in Alaska. We require an ample population of game animals for food, and with a huge amount of their habitat potentially becoming unlivable for them if this deal goes through it is uncertain if we will have sufficient game to survive on.

    As you may know, our island is unique in all of Alaska in that it the only one that consists entirely of a karst topography. A large portion of the largest as-of-yet unmapped cave system in North America lies beneath the lands that Sealaksa wishes to have on Kosciusko Island. Studies have shown that the underground aquifer, the same one that supplies the drinking water for the residents of Edna Bay, flows via tremendously long and winding limestone caves through an unmapped system. Contaminants from large-scale logging or other development activities in the disputed area could easily contaminate the drinking water supply of Edna Bay. It would be irresponsible to allow any development until thorough scientific studies of the Kosciusko Island aquifer had been conducted and development disallowed in all sensitive areas.

    The State of Alaska created the modern community of Edna Bay by laying out the boundaries of our lots and our town in a far-flung island wilderness for the purpose of attracting hard working Americans to live in a community that would by necessity require the natural resources of the surrounding National Forest for their survival. To take those lands away from the stewardship of the American People, and especially the people of Edna Bay, to give it to a corporation that has no intention of improving the lives of Edna Bay residents – and seems to care not that we could be very adversely affected, would be to say that the profits of the Sealaska corporation are more important than the lives of the people of Edna Bay Alaska. There must be another way to both give Sealaska the compensation it is owed, and leave the Tongass National Forest on Kosciusko Island forever untouched by private development.


  2. I am a resident of 1 of the 5 communities that will be decimated. We are all surrounded by the National Forest lands Sealaska wishes to own. Our towns contain residents of both Native and Non-Native heritage. This has been painted by Sealaska supporters as an issue of Native vs. Non-Native rights, when it is an issue of a for-profit corporation vs. the communities that will be decimated.

    The facts are that if these bills pass Sealaska Corp.:

    * Will decimate the communities of Edna Bay, Cape Pole, Naukati, Port Protection, and Point Baker by reducing our available hunting and gathering grounds to almost nothing.

    * Will risk contamination of the ground water aquifers that run through the extremely rare Karst topography in exactly the areas that Sealaska wishes to have for large-scale logging. Water flowing through underground Karsts is extremely susceptible to contamination from activity taking place above ground. As a matter of fact, the largest as-of-yet unmapped cave system in all of North America lies directly beneath the land that Sealaska wants.

    * Has already, in 2008, chosen lands from the ANCSA agreed-upon areas that SATISFY AND FINALIZE their land claims, YET INSTEAD Sealaska Corp SUBMITTED A REQUEST TO DELAY THIS PROCESS because they want “more profitable” lands currently used and needed by the residents of our towns.


  3. Very interesting, Roger. I’m sorry to hear about this predicament. I hope you don’t mind, but I plan to share your story and your writing with my undergraduate environmental ethics students. We’re talking about this issue in my class, and I think your input will prove invaluable to that discussion.


    • Thank you Ben. Of course you have my permission to use any and all of my writings for your class. There is much more that just what is posted here, feel free to use anything on the internet that I have written on this subject. All of my postings are either in my own name, Roger DiPaolo, or my “handle” of rldipaolo. Educating people on these kinds of subjects is critically important to our shared future on this planet. Thank you very much for all you do!



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