Editorial: Reach compromise over Alaska Native land bill
"Today residents of the small Southeast communities of Port Protection, Point Baker and Edna Bay will have their say at community hearings about the claims of Sealaska Corp. to tens of thousands of acres of the Tongass National Forest on Prince of Wales Island and other Southeast lands. The fishing, guiding and subsistence communities -- among others in Southeast -- fear they'll lose access to public lands that have supported decades of community life. Should those lands go to Sealaska, a private corporation will control access and federal protections for subsistence and forest management will be lost.

Many in those communities have little confidence in Sealaska's assurances that little will change, especially in the near future. Between logging and the right to post "no trespassing" signs, they expect plenty of change that threatens their livelihoods and ways of life.

Further, they argue that Sealaska's claims are outside the original boundaries of land from which the Native regional corporation is entitled to choose. Those boundaries were established for the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The critics say nothing stood between Sealaska and its final claims except its desire for more valuable land to log.

Sealaska does want Congress to approve lands outside the boundaries because those lands are more valuable for cultural, recreational and commercial purposes -- and because, the corporation says, the original boundaries were unfair."

Get the Story:
Our view: Land claims (The Anchorage Daily News 3/31)

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