Young’s Sealaska Bill Goes to Natural Resources Committee Wednesday

Sealaska land-selection legislation will be before the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Wednesday. The panel is the bill’s final stop before heading to the House floor.

The measure, authored by Alaska Congressman Don Young, is scheduled for mark-up.

Young’s office says it’s expected to pass out of the committee with bipartisan support. The bill was introduced in April, and had a hearing in May before the Indian Affairs Subcommittee. The office says only minor changes have been made since that hearing.

Young’s measure would designate Tongass National Forest timberlands that Sealaska could select and harvest. Most are on Prince of Wales Island. It also proposes economic development zones.

The lands are outside boundaries set by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which created Native corporations.

Sealaska says making addition selections within current boundaries and logging them could damage habitat and watersheds. Critics, including environmental groups, say the new selection areas include key habitat for fish and wildlife and should be protected.

Senator Lisa Murkowski has her own version of the bill. It has significant differences, including some of the timberland locations. It also had a hearing in April. Her office says it hopes for a markup this summer.

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Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.

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