Opinion: Sealaska land bill poses threat to salmon habitat

"This week the U.S. Senate Natural Resources Committee will hold hearings on Sen. Lisa Murkowski's Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Jobs Protection Act. The bill perpetuates a 40-year-old history of efforts to solve the Native lands claim issues with a failed economic model -- intensive old-growth clear-cutting. This is bad public policy and a rotten deal for salmon fisheries.

This transfer of public forests to a private corporation poses significant risks to habitat. Bill proponents have not been candid about these impacts. They say the bill "protects" some watersheds to offset the habitat loss. They act like it is a good compromise to place temporary riparian buffers on a limited number of streams. But an outdated and temporary buffer program and a few conservation areas do nothing to mitigate the impacts of further industrial scale clear-cutting on Prince of Wales Island (POW).

The only issue the bill presents for people who fish relates to mixed-stock fisheries management. Too much habitat loss in one area causes population depletions or even localized extirpations. This then triggers restrictive measures like shorter seasons or smaller bag limits or closures of traditional fishing areas. To illustrate, there are many healthy salmon populations up and down the Pacific Coast. There are also nearly 30 salmon stocks listed under the Endangered Species Act. It is those listed fish and other weak stocks that have triggered the periodic or permanent closure of nearly every fishery south of Dixon Entrance."

Get the Story:
Paul Olson: Tongass clear-cuts are hazard to salmon (The Anchorage Daily News 5/24)

Committee Notice:
PUBLIC LANDS AND FORESTS HEARING ANNOUNCEMENT: to receive testimony on the following bills: S. 233, S. 268 S. 375, S. 714, and S. 730 (May 25, 2011)

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