An Alaskan protests

By , Mildred H. STephens resides in Ketchikan.

The very persuasive, well-meaning, but overzealous conservationists have caused our President, congressmen, and others to have many misconceptions about Alaska. It is my earnest desire as a 43-year resident of this state to correct some of these misconceptions.

First, let me say that men are not waiting with bulldozers to despoil the land. We have all the safeguards to protect our land that any other state has -- the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Environmental Protection Agency, and many others.

In fact, we have so much protection that development is almost impossible. It took six years to overcome all the obstacles and meet all the protective environmental requirements before the Alaska pipeline could be built. If the pulp mill in Ketchikan needs to move a logging camp to a new location, 40 permits must be obtained. This alone shows the amount of protection we have for already existing industry. The US Borax Company, which has discovered what may prove to be the largest molybdenum mine in the world, has been trying for approximately three years to obtain the necessary permits to build 11 miles of road to better facilitate further exploration, but as yet they have no road.

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Our birds and wildlife are already well protected by existing laws. For instance, even though hundreds of bald eagles inhabit southeastern Alaska, it is not only against the law to kill an eagle but it is unlawful to own or have in one's possession a single eagle feather.

Alaska has 27,146,690 acres (42,417 square miles) in wildlife refuges, national parks, and monuments, some of which were requested by the people of Alaska themselves. There is no objection to some of these areas being enlarged or others added -- within reason. But we do object strenuously to having millions of acres locked up in wilderness and national monuments with all their restrictions.

Under the present restrictions imposed by President Carter, Interior Secretary Andrus, and the secretary of agriculture, 110 million acres -- almost one-third of Alaska, an area larger than the state of California -- is locked up in national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges, wild and scenic rivers, and wilderness.

Alaskans, and I'm speaking for the majority of Alaskans, believe in conservation. But they also believe that conservation and orderly development are compatible; that both are needed and desirable and that we could and should have both.

Many may think that Alaska is such a large state that the two-thirds left to us is enough for development. Those who have flown over Alaska on a clear day know that there are hundreds of miles of snow-capped mountains and glaciers. This is a rugged country, and much of the land will always be wild and uninhabitable.

Alaska has other resources besides oil and shoudl be allowed to make use of them. One of these major resources is timber. The Udall- Anderson bill, HR 39, which passed the House in May, 1979, would set aside 36 percent -- more than one-third of the Tongass National Forest -- as wilderness. The Tongass National Forest covers all of southeastern Alaska and is the source of timber for two pulp mills, the only year-round industry for Ketchikan and Sitka, two of the major cities in Alaska. This bill would drastically cut down the annual allowable timber harvest for these two mills and would make it difficult for both to continue operating.

Timber is a reneawable resource. The forests of Southeastern Alaska are rain forests, some areas having as much as 160 to 190 inches of rain per year. Therefore the cut- over areas reseed themselves quickly with lush new growth of spruce and hemlock, but if left in a wilderness area the trees become overmature and are subject to disease and windfall.

The world needs the pulp and timber Alaska produces. The United States needs our oil and other strategic minerals. But how can we continue to produce these and explore for more with millions of acres locked up in wilderness -- a wilderness so wild, so vast and inaccessible that few will ever see it or go into it?

Alaskans do not feel that they live in a land apart. They worked hard for statehood and, although separated physically from the "lower 48," they are definitely a part of our great country and should have the same privileges granted to all the other states, such as fish and wildlife management, water appropriation rights, navigable water control, access to public lands, and use of federal lands by state residents.

We are a young state and need economic development to survive. We need jobs for our people. We need encouragement, help and support to develop our great potential, not deterrents to our progress. Therefore, I urge President Carter and our congressmen to consider carefully before locking up an excessive amount of land in this great and rugged state.

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