Something New to Worry About

By , October 9, 2017

We find ourselves facing potentially lifestyle-changing events here in our off-the-grid neighborhood. About 400 acres of forested land on our peninsula, some of it directly adjoining our property, has been offered for logging.

A lot of detail and history goes into explaining what’s going on. I’ll summarize briefly, to the best of my understanding and information:

The University of Alaska (UA) and the Alaska Mental Health Trust (AMHT) both own land in Alaska to fund their operations. They profit by selling to private citizens, or resource extraction (timber, mining, etc.). Both of these entities hold tracts on our peninsula.

sacred space

This place, which we consider a sacred space, is in one of the areas offered for timber cutting (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

Recently, resource extraction by local residents became an issue within our community; our local Planning Commission, and the Borough Assembly sought to clarify the limits, if any, to resource extraction in our neighborhood, a residential zone.

This question apparently prompted the University of Alaska to put out their holdings in our neighborhood to commercial logging, ahead of any possible restrictions on such activity. The Alaska Mental Health Trust is watching this closely as well.

This opened up an intricate can of worms in Haines. We have yet to learn the whole outcome.

Several Assembly Members called a special public meeting to discuss the issue. Our family attended, along with many others in the community. People gave public testimony for and against—mostly the latter, a couple of the former.

According to what we learned at the special meeting, it doesn’t appear that this timber sale can go through. UA dictates that local codes apply. Those restrictions include allowing only selective logging (as opposed to clear cutting), prohibiting commercial operations by anyone other than a resident of the zone, and restrictions against dealing with corporations or entities as individuals. (Note that I avoid designations such as “ordinance,” “covenant,” etc.; I am not so technically minded to identify these properly.)

However, we’re not out of the woods yet (as it were). UA stipulates that these timber extractions be “responsible development.” That implies selective logging. However, all my life, clear cutting has been considered and defended as “responsible” development in Southeast Alaska. Further, our Borough attorney argued that whatever is not explicitly forbidden in our code is allowed. That, the Chair of our Planning Commission argued at the meeting, implies that a resident could open a nuclear waste dump in our neighborhood!

The Assembly went into executive session to discuss the issue. We headed home through the rain and wind, to learn the outcome on some future day.

Hopefully, common sense will prevail.

Bids are due October 23rd, as are public comments, which the three of us, and most of our neighbors, will submit.

For our part, we’re trying to effectively describe what such an operation might do to our way of life. I spent a lot of time as a child around logging operations; I shudder to think of one coming to our neighborhood. The chaos, noise, and smell of even a well run logging operation would completely change the peninsula for the worse (see In the Quiet of the Morning, or Listening to Silence). Not to mention the lasting effects, including new roads, that will alter the character of this neighborhood for lifetimes to come.

Our challenge: how to convey the impact of such an operation on the quality of our lives in a way that will matter to those whose prime objective is to make a profit?

That has me worried. Expect to read more on this as we work through the ramifications and development!

2 Responses to “Something New to Worry About”

  1. Linn Hartman says:

    sorry to see this – i hope this will pass without messing up your life style – we sold some timber last year and even selective logging does not leave the land untouched – good luck

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Thanks, Linn. Hope to update this in a few days.

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