In an effort to boost Southeast Alaska's struggling timber industry, create jobs in the region and finalize a longstanding land entitlement, the House of Representatives, led by Alaskan Congressman Don Young passed H.R. 2578, the Conservation and Economic Growth Act by a bipartisan vote of 232 to 188. This bipartisan lands legislation includes Rep. Young's Sealaska bill, H.R. 1408, the Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Jobs Protection Act -- legislation that would finalize Sealaska Native Corporation's land selections under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).
"Today is an important day not only for Sealaska's shareholders, but for all of Southeast Alaska," said Rep. Young. "It's a shame that now, over 40 years since ANCSA became law, Sealaska still does not have its full land allotment. After traveling throughout the region and hearing from stakeholders on both sides of this issue, I believe this bill is a fair compromise. This bill is a jobs creator in a region that badly needs it. In the end, all Alaska Native shareholders will benefit when Sealaska undertakes its sustainable timber management program on the lands conveyed in this bill."
Because of the revenues that will be shared with other Native Corporations in accordance with section 7(i) of ANCSA, all Alaska Native Shareholders will reap the benefits of this legislation.
"I remember a time when Southeast Alaska's timber industry lead its industry and helped employ thousands of Alaskans," Rep. Young continued. "Unfortunately, after decades of baseless lawsuits from radical environmentalists and poor land stewardship by the Forest Service, Alaska's timber industry has seen a 90% decline since 1990. This bill is crucial to the success and quite frankly, survival of Alaska's timber industry."
In addition to having the full support of the entire Alaska delegation, this legislation enjoys the support of the National Congress of American Indians, the Intertribal Timber Council, the Alaska Federation of Natives, the ANCSA Regional Presidents & CEOs, the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, the Alaska Forest Association, and numerous other communities, community organizations, and tribes throughout Southeast Alaska.
"I am pleased that my colleagues in the House recognized today just how important this legislation is to the people of Southeast Alaska. As the Senate crafts a similar omnibus lands package, I look forward to working to ensure this legislation is enacted into law."
Many changes have been made to accommodate reasonable concerns brought by those who enjoy public access in the Tongass. For example, the bill contains language reserving easements for public access on Sealaska's private lands in a number of areas.