$500,000 campaign underway for the Southeast ‘landless’ tribes

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Going To Alaska, the 49th State



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$500,000 campaign underway for the Southeast ‘landless’ tribes

was written by June Leffler, KSTK – Wrangell , 2019-09-06 21:29:58

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Southeast’s landless tribal communities want to form five new village corporations out of 115,000 acres of Tongass National Forest. The effort has new cash and — it says — the right political climate in Washington to finally get it done.

Richard Rinehart (left) fields questions and comments at a public meeting in Wrangell. Rinehart serves on the Sealaska board and is from Wrangell. (Photo by June Leffler/ KSTK)

The 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act allotted millions of acres of land to 13 regional Native corporations. But some tribal communities in Southeast were left out of the process.

That’s created a movement by the landless tribes in Southeast. It’s an issue that’s simmered for decades. But a recent infusion of $500,000 from regional corporation Sealaska has professionalized its efforts.

At a meeting in August in Wrangell, Sealaska board member Richard Rinehart recalls the early 1970s when 200 village corporations were created across Alaska.

“We all thought we were getting land just like everybody else and it was just a big surprise that we didn’t,” Rinehart said.

There’s no apparent reason certain communities were left out. Those include the five southeast tribes of Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Haines and Tenakee Springs. Together they are home to 4,400 Sealaska shareholders.

Over the years, four bills were introduced in Congress to cede federal land to Southeast tribal communities. The most recent was the ANSCA Improvement Act introduced by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski in 2017. It didn’t get very far. Her office says there was a lot of opposition in Washington over parceling out a national forest. 

Now, the Southeast Alaska Landless Corporation is crafting a fifth bill they hope Alaska’s delegation will support. It’ll be different than previous efforts in that it contains specifics — and maps that are now being released as the landless corporation takes it message from community to community. The bill envisions 115,000 acres to be divided between the five landless tribes. 

Rinehart says the climate in Washington is right for reshaping public lands. 

“Today, we have under the Trump administration new heads of the Forest Service and they are in support,” he said. “They will not fight us they will sit down and talk with us.”

USDA Forest Service Chief and Alaska’s Regional Forester met with some of the shareholders and Sealaska’s legal team last year. The Forest Service said in a statement they’ve given advice over existing land designations in the Tongass, but haven’t signaled whether they support giving up management of any forest land. 

Conservation groups are wary about carving up the Tongass. But they say they’re aware it’s a complex issue that involves trying to right historic wrongs.

“It’s our hope that we can support them by working with them in partnership,” said Meredith Trainor, the executive director for the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council in Juneau.

She says she supports tribal sovereignty but not necessarily if it means public land is lost at the expense of subsistence users. 

SEACC opposed past efforts. But she says there are ways a new village corporation could get its land and be good stewards of the forest. 

“Such as being included in the carbon market and through carbon sequestration where communities would be paid not to log the lands,” she said.

Rinehart said that with the decline of the timber industry, carbon credits make sense. Sealaska is already in the carbon credit market.  

But the landless group says nothing — including logging — would be off the table. 

The campaign is traveling to all Southeast communities releasing specific maps as it goes. The five maps should be available once its tour is completed next week. 

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a trip to Alaska

A Visit To Alaska

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My appropriate must see attractions for anybody traveling to Alaska includes

Denali National Park and Preserve. Originally developed to conserve wildlife, the views are nevertheless amazing. Denali includes 160 miles of the Alaska Range and commanding this skyline is North America’s greatest peak; 20,320 foot Mount McKinley very easily one of the most awesome views in Alaska, if not the world. Yet it’s not only the mountain that makes Denali National Park an extraordinary place. The park is also the place to find thirty seven species of mammals, ranging from lynx, marmots and Dall sheep, to foxes and snowshoe hares, and one hundred thirty different bird species may be spotted here, which include the remarkable golden eagle. The majority of visitors, however, want to see four animals particularly: moose, caribou, wolf and everybody’s popular: the grizzly, bear. Denali, unlike the majority of wilderness areas in the country, it’s not necessary to be a backpacker to experience this wildlife, they can be seen right next to the famous Denali Park road. Not surprisingly then, visitors arrive here in droves; the park is a favorite destination, drawing 432,000 visitors per year. Over the years the National Park Service (NPS) has developed exceptional visitor-management methods, such as closing its only road to the majority of vehicles. Because of this Denali National Park is still the wonderful wilderness it was two decades previously. The entrance has changed, but the park itself has not, and any brown bear meandering on the tundra ridge continue to provide the very same quiet excitement as when the park very first opened up in 1917. Although generations of Athabascans had wandered through what’s presently the park, the first permanent settlement was founded in 1905, when a gold miners’ rush established the town of Kantishna. A year later, naturalist and hunter Charles Sheldon was taken aback by the beauty of the land and horrified at the careless abandon of the miners and big-game hunters. Sheldon returned in 1907 and explored the area along with guide Harry Karstens in an effort to set up boundaries for a proposed national park. Sheldon was successful and the location was organized as Mount McKinley National Park in 1917 along with Karstens serving as the park’s very first superintendent. As a result of the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the park was increased to more than 6 million acres and re-named Denali National Park and Preserve. Denali right now includes an area slightly larger than the state of Massachusetts and is typically rated as one of Alaska’s top sight-seeing opportunities.

a trip to Denali National Park in Alaska, the 49th State

Visiting Denali National Park in Alaska, the 49th State