The following statement from The Wilderness Society Alaska Regional Director Nicole Whittington-Evans is in response to the House Natural Resources Committee markup of the Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Jobs Protection Act , commonly called the Sealaska Lands Bill, (H.R. 1408) and the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska Access Act (H.R.2150).
“The bills passed by the Committee today are steps backward, not forward, for Alaskans. The Sealaska Lands Bill would continue to keep Alaskan villages around the Tongass National Forest dependent on timber boom-and-bust cycles of the past, rather than a sustainable economy based on responsible forestry, restoration, recreation and tourism. The bill also threatens priority conservation lands.
“The National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska Act poses a different set of problems. One of the main purposes of the bill – to hold annual lease sales in the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska – has already been addressed by the Obama administration, making half of the legislation redundant. The other half of the legislation would mandate unnecessary roads and pipelines to crisscross the Reserve, threatening Special Areas like the critically important Teshekpuk Lake region. Teshekpuk Lake has been recognized for its wildlife values by administrations of both parties going back to Jimmy Carter.
“Neither of these bills will improve Alaska’s long-term economy nor protect its priceless natural resources, like the thousands of birds that nest near Teshekpuk Lake or the multi-million dollar salmon fishery supported by the Tongass National Forest.