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Mr. YOUNG of Alaska. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of H.R. 2578. I'm primarily interested in the Sealaska provision. It's very important to understand something: the Alaska Tongass National Forest is 17 million acres of land. We're asking for 77,000 acres of land to be transferred to the Sealaska Corporation that has already been cut.
There is no old-growth timber involved in this. It gets Sealaska away from sensitive areas, including municipal watersheds, and onto areas already zoned for timber management on a road system. The exchange lands are near Native villages on Prince of Wales Island where unemployment is about 25 percent.
This bill supports the Forest Service by making Sealaska timberlands more accessible to rural and mostly Native communities, where unemployment is above 25 percent. Sealaska's land base will then support a sustainable timber rotation in perpetuity.
This bill affects approximately 77,000 acres in the 17 million-acre Tongass forest. It's already protected by designation, so it cannot be harvested.
Sealaska and its contractors combined make up the largest for-profit sector employer in southeast Alaska, providing over 360 jobs. Including direct and indirect payroll, it's almost 500 jobs.
This bill also finalizes Sealaska's Native land claim rights passed in 1971, and it does not entitle the Natives to an acre above what the 1971 Native Claims Settlement this Congress passed that limits it to them.
H.R. 2578 supports timber jobs while conserving environmentally sensitive lands in community watersheds. Failure to pass this bill may spell the end of Sealaska's timber program as early as 2012 and the loss of timber jobs in an Alaska private industry that's decreased 90 percent since 1990 because of action of this Congress when they passed the Alaska National Lands Act and put most of the land off limits.
Because the Forest Service is either unwilling or unable to offer an adequate timber supply in southeast Alaska, the remaining industry relies on Sealaska timber. The Alaska Forest Association testified:
AFA strongly supports the passage of H.R. 2578 without delay. Passage of this bill is critical to the future of our remaining industry.
Most importantly, the bill finalizes the land claim settlement for 20,000 Alaska Native jobs in southeast Alaska.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to go to the ``Bull Dip'' awards, the Bull Dip awards for information put out on this legislation. We're talking about 77,000 acres that have already been cut. The Bull Dip award goes to those people who say there's transfer of over 50,000 miles of road. There may be 5,000 miles' worth, maybe 500 miles of road, but it's already roads that have been built on acreage that has already been harvested.
The other area of the Bull Dip award is the fact that the road will not be accessible to public use. It will be used for public use. There are no restrictions, not any action that will be taken to prohibit anybody from choosing these lands or moving on these lands.
All I'm asking today is give--an action of this Congress in 1971--the right to the Native people to land that's not old-growth timber.
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Mr. YOUNG of Alaska. It's not old-growth timber. This is land that's already been cut over, but they want to use it like Silviculture, growing timber forever, not like the Forest Service now, keeping old timber not cut. This is the right thing to do.
The idea that we would have people sending out propaganda--I know there's an outfit called Red States saying this is going to cost the Federal Government money and it's a giveaway. It's strange that that same operation doesn't like the Federal Government. I'm asking that this Federal land that's already been harvested over be given to the Alaska Native people, as they should have it. And they're trying to stay away from the old-growth timber. That's what they're trying to do. If I was doing it myself, I'd cut the old-growth timber; it's dying anyway. But nobody wants to do it; they don't recognize it.
I sat on this floor and watched the Alaska National Lands Act under George Miller, my good friend, say: don't worry, we'll have a timber industry. We've lost 15,000 jobs in southeast Alaska--high-paying jobs--because of the so-called ``environmental movement.'' That does not make sense. That does not make sense for America. This is a renewable resource that should be utilized correctly. Let's pass this legislation.
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Mr. YOUNG of Alaska. I strongly oppose this amendment. I know this amendment may have good intentions, but it is misguided. It will hurt the employment in the Native villages of Alaska. We have studies that show that the employment would not increase if we cannot export some of our logs.
By the way, this amendment was in the Natural Resources Committee, and it was defeated 30 13.
Last night, the Alaska Forest Association wrote in strong opposition to the amendment. And, very frankly, it is not right for the government to tell somebody on private land where they can sell their product. The only person who should be able to do this is the owner of a product. We don't tell where the Californians can sell their rice. We don't tell Weyerhaeuser where they should sell their timber. And so we shouldn't be telling a private landowner where to sell their timber.
In fact, if we had the Tongass National Forest, what little land we have left of less than a million and a half acres that is federally owned as far as harvesting capability, if the Forest Service would do their job, we'd have some timber to harvest, but they're not doing it. But what timber they do harvest on Federal land, they allow 50 percent of old-growth timber sales and 100 percent of new growth, 100 percent to be sold. So this is a little bit, I say, not sincere in the sense that this is not going to create jobs, and the Federal Government is already allowing timber to be sold wherever they wish to.
I would suggest respectfully that the amendment is not placed correctly. I would like to keep the timber in the United States, but if the market's not there, or if the bid is not as high as overseas people who bid on it, then you have to let the private person, in fact, sell his timber.
I would suggest respectfully that the thing that concerns me the most in this whole argument is some of the arguments against this legislation. This is about a Native group. It's a corporation, but it's a Native group of villages put together that have a high unemployment. We're getting all kinds of bull dip all across the Internet now saying that this, in fact, is going to give away. It's talk about roads being given away. This is timber area that has already been cut, and they do not want to cut the old timber area.
They're trying to have a good industry built by silviculture, and this is what's so important here. But for some reason, like I say, they're winning the ``bull dip'' awards of the whole year on this legislation.
Now, I understand what the gentleman is trying to do, but it's not right to have a private entity be told by the Federal Government where they can sell their product. We don't tell rice growers or tell anybody else where to sell their product. They sell it to the best market, and this is about the best market.
This would be wrong because they will have timber in a few years. I'd say maybe 50 years they'll have the best timber stand in the whole State of Alaska because this area has already been cut. They'll take them thin, and they'll be able to sell this timber at a high price, probably to the United States by then because we'll all be long gone.
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