Why Some of Our Last Remaining Old-Growth Forests May Be Privatized for a Political Favor
Here is a contribution from an Alaskan reader:
While world leaders converge on Rio de Janeiro this week to discuss what can be done to rein in climate change, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives has other plans: It will take up an omnibus bill that bundles together more than a dozen proposals that critics have denounced as a sweeping effort to roll back environmental laws and privatize public lands.
The bill that could go to a vote as early as Tuesday includes one measure that would privatize some of the last remaining old-growth trees inside Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, a rugged wilderness often called the “crown jewel of the U.S. public lands system.” The legislation would convey tens of thousands of acres of Tongass forestland to Sealaska Corp., a native corporation that helped bankroll Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski’s 2010 write-in reelection victory.
Sealaska, a diversified conglomerate with native Alaskan shareholders, says the land includes sites with cultural and sacred value. But the company’s critics, including some of its own shareholders, say it’s a land grab worth billions of dollars in timber sales. Logging those lands, they warn, could jeopardize ecosystems inside one of the world’s last remaining temperate rainforests and destabilize the local economy in a region that spawns the vast majority of the world’s commercial salmon catch each year.
Sealaska, which has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying fees in support of the legislation in recent years, has the backing of Alaska’s entire congressional delegation. Alaska Rep. Don Young introduced the measure being considered this week, while the Senate version of the bill, co-sponsored by Murkowski and Mark Begich, a Democrat, has been the subject of furious behind-the-scenes negotiations with lawmakers, the Obama administration, environmental groups and other special interests. While a new version of the Senate bill has yet to be made public, Murkowski has said she hopes to hold a Senate markup later this summer.
Sealaska didn’t respond to emails requesting comment but the corporation’s executive vice president, Rick Harris, told Reuters that Sealaska would relinquish rights to other ecologically valuable old-growth areas inside the Tongass, in exchange for the lands. According to Reuters, Harris said the deal fit with Sealaska’s mission to redress long-standing wrongs against native people in the area.
Note from Sharon: I am always interested in what appears to be the divergence of media nowadays into “us” media and “them” media and how that plays out.. here is one of the pieces in “About” Alternet, the organization that published this piece.
AlterNet has developed a unique model of journalism to confront the failures of corporate media, as well as the vitriol and disinformation of right wing media, especially “hate talk” media.
Not only do we keep our readers highly informed on a wide array of topics, from hundreds of experts and sources, but we also provide laser focus on the most compelling issues of the day. We offer our readers comprehensive information, a positive vision for the future, and concrete action steps towards change. AlterNet believes that media must have a higher purpose beyond the essential goal of keeping people informed. We insist on playing an active role in helping our community funnel its energy into change.
It seems like increasingly stories are in service of agendas, and not just about explaining to people why different people think differently about an issue.
Anyway, here’s a link to Sealaska. So is returning land to them technically repatriation or “privatization” or some hybrid? There seem to be some nuances left unexamined.